Maine Scallop Advisory Council Meeting Minutes
February 8, 2010
Ellsworth City Hall
Council: Dana Temple, Terrence Kenney, Any Mays, Ernest Kelly, Barry Huckins, George Freeman, Tim Harper, Annie Tselikis
DMR: Togue Brawn, Linda Mercer, Lt. Alan Talbot, Kevin Kelly
Audience: Frank Jones, Derek Jones, Kyle Jones, Kurt Ciomei, Russell Bray, Tom Pottle, Scott Emery, Dana Black, Jeff Boyce, Justin Boyce, Brian Gordius, Travis Fogg, Arthur Alley, Guy (?), Sherm Hoyt (Cooperative Extension), Stephen Rappaport (Ellsworth American), Bill Trotter (Bangor Daily News), Laurie Schreiber (Fishermen’s Voice, Village Soup), Jessamine Logan (Senator Collins’ office).
Barry motioned to approve the minutes, Seconded by Junior, unanimously approved.
Togue gave a DMR update:
The Department’s and the SAC’s testimony for LD 932 was that it was premature; we may or may not need legislative assistance, but we won’t know until we work out more details. Marine Resources Committee voted ought not to pass. However, the idea is not dead, need to figure out how to manage closed areas, and since Whiting Bay and Denny’s Bay will open first, we should start there. There are lots of different ideas –MRC will be sending letter to Council on areas they believe we should focus on. Timeline – we need to get back to MRC in November with an outline of our plan (how we plan to reopen the closed areas and manage scallops overall). Need to figure out next year’s season by May or June so it can be finalized by September (rulemaking, Advisory Council vote). Fishermen’s Forum – there will be a scallop session to look at how closed areas are managed in other places and what might work here.
Sherm Hoyt presented on the Taunton Bay management plan: A handout was passed with basic information on the program: This is a 3-yr project in its 3rd year as an area management experiment for mussels, urchins, scallops, and kelp. It’s a work in progress. Can’t be replicated elsewhere. Small area, small # of fishermen. Came about from a dragging closure poised for reopening. Fisheries have to be carried out in a way that protects the ecosystem. Eelgrass, horseshoe crabs are major components that have to be protected. Fishermen have to have a direct voice in management. Experiments like this allow us to try out new management tools - quotas, etc. Harvesters are involved in the management decisions, get to decide how they want to fish. Mussel harvesters wanted the bay to be open to anyone. Fishermen are participating in it but do not like it. Urchins – similar to mussel harvesters. Wanted to have a role in survey and evaluation.
Andy: What does it mean “to decide how you want to fish?”
Sherm: Decide on season, quota and allocation, etc.
George – Who is responsible for surveys?
Sherm – Fishermen participated in urchin survey. As for the scallop survey, there were 3 scallop divers, worked out a process w/ DMR to take some out but not overharvest. Was very flexible – decided to go a certain number of days. Urchins – quota was set.
Tim: How do you decide how many boats can fish in there?
Sherm: Fishermen have to work that out. No one has been turned away. What needs improvement – stock assessments (difficult area to survey); quota setting – new process, how do you set a quota that earns a living but saves some for the future; DMR not supportive of transferable quotas at this time.
George – What percent of the harvestable biomass was allowed for the quota?
Sherm: Not really set yet. What is working reasonably well? (see handout) Sherm – gives fishermen more voice in management, presence or absence of an endorsement is easy to enforce.
Annie: What are the costs to DMR?
Linda and Togue: Substantial. Huge costs in terms of time and resources. This is still a work in progress, but at this point it seems pretty clear it would be neither advisable nor possible to extend this anywhere else.
Alan: In terms of enforcement it’s been a nightmare. There’s no practical way to enforce the quota. Basically, this is an honor system.
Dana: What about the advantage of getting fishermen together to talk at least once a year? I know we benefit from more communication in the industry.
George: Did fishermen buy into the assessment?
Linda: Urchin fishermen did the assessment.
Dana: industry participation is going to be key.
Andy: if this is working in TB, it’s because it is a tiny place that is difficult to get to, and because it’s essentially an effort reduction.
Andy expresses frustration that people think no one has done anything to fix the scallop fishery.
Dana: That’s not the case.
Togue points out that the only people who express frustration that we haven’t done much to protect the scallop resource are those who haven’t been paying attention for the past few years.
Dana: Closed areas – maybe we should try opening up for a short time to make sure not to wipe things out.
Andy: we have effort reduction in place already via reduced licenses. How is it going to be worse to just open these areas up?
Togue – need to use precautionary approach. We didn’t’ reduce licenses, we capped them, and there’s more than enough potential effort to deplete the remaining resource with those licenses. We need to spend the time figuring out how to manage closed areas. I don’t want to open them up on the hope that we’ve done enough, only to have five years of effort (two getting the closures in, three being closed) go down the drain.
George: The problem will be getting fishermen to believe the science – the assessments.
Togue: We’re working on trying to get more work done, but for now, we have the state drag survey.
Dana: We need to get industry to look at the areas too. We are going to have to “guess” this first year.
George agrees with Andy that things are coming along just fine: Have already seen a good set.
Annie: SAC has done a lot of beneficial work, but I’m worried about closed areas – people say they can’t wait to go hit them once they open. There will certainly be an increase in effort when they open.
Dana: Do you think it is wise to open Whiting Bay after only two years? How will we keep that area from being overharvested?
Tom Pottle: – We (he and Scott Emery) came to hear how the SAC will recommend opening the closed areas. Cobscook gets hammered every year but the scallops come back. This year was a little better than last year. We don’t think rotational closures make sense in Cobscook. Puts pressure on the open areas.
Togue explained that Whiting Bay and Denny’s Bay is a 2-yr closure based on work with the Cobscook Bay fishermen – shouldn’t go to 3yrs just because of the other areas.
Junior: Should open all areas with the same limits.
There was general discussion of the benefits of having a lower limit: makes the season last longer, people don’t have as much of an incentive to travel. Times of huge daily landings are gone.
Andy – would anyone be opposed to decreasing the 200 lb limit? 135 lb limits the number of fishermen who go to Cobscook.
Frank Jones: Increased mesh sizes worked to decrease the small fish when we were gillnetting. Ring size is doing the same thing: you get fewer small scallops. I’m strongly in favor of 15 gallons. Would like to see full season. Does anybody disagree with decreasing the limit?
Togue asked Tim Harper, who has expressed a desire not to reduce the limit in the past. Tim said he’d personally like it to stay at 200 pounds but wouldn’t oppose if the industry was in favor of reducing it.
George: We’re really restricted this year, next year won’t be very good. Need to rotate closed areas. We’ve closed all the best areas of the state.
Togue: That’s absurd. We did not close all the good areas.
Dana: Fishermen are doing better this year. But whether we have catch limits or boat limit; effort is still too high to just open the closed areas and hope for the best. We need to get controls in place before areas open.
Alan: I have to leave, but before I go I’d like to address something I think is important: the cutting of small scallops – how about a statewide meat count? It is working very well in Cobscook. MP was originally reluctant. In the past, we had to enforce a federally-mandated weight measurement. With scales and such it was difficult. But with a volume measurement, it’s practical and it works. It could work state wide with a liberal enough procedure and enforcement. In Cobscook, you can’t have >35 meats/pint, you have to have 3 samples in excess before a violation. It’s really the only way to enforce cutting small scallops.
Maurice: Machias Bay might be a problem due to small meat counts.
Arthur: It’s not a problem: if the meats aren’t up to size, leave it alone – it’s more reproduction.
Annie: What about a max. shell size? It works in the lobster fishery.
Alan: That might be difficult to enforce, as is the minimum. A daily limit and meat count would do the most for the fishery.
Andy: We need to address a loophole – if you are a recreational scallop diver and are going out with commercial divers, everyone should be held to recreational limit. How does MP handle this?
Togue notes that as far as she knows the commercial harvesters would not be held to that limit: discussion ensues, everyone thinks they should all be limited to the rec limit to prevent blending, Togue says she’ll put it on a list of things to consider/discuss/accomplish.
Kyle: What is it going to take for younger scallopers to get a license? I don’t have a license, but I’d like to be able to go.
Togue: If we do nothing, in 2012 it will sunset. We need to figure this out.
Scott: Rolling closures like Whiting is not “for us”. Not enough area down there. If we have to, we could have shorter season instead.
Tom Pottle: how did assessments work out with what was harvested?
Togue: We don’t have the data for this year.
Kevin spoke of the survey (Cobscook was part of it), but hasn’t been able to work it up yet. Togue noted that getting harvester reports on time is a problem: the only “teeth” the regulation has is the ability to withhold a license if reports aren’t submitted. This means people often don’t submit them until the following year when they apply for their license. This complicates timely scientific analysis and management.
George – should have a call in system daily. You could call in to say you were going fishing, and if you don’t submit your report for that day, you don’t get the opportunity to use your next day.
Togue: Tons of issues around implementing this. We can’t even get reports in within the month, let alone the day. Who’s going to monitor who’s submitted and who hasn’t? How will Marine Patrol know? I know you’d like a call-in system, and I know the Dept. has opposed it in the past. We’re not opposing it just for fun. There are serious accountability and administration issues that prevent any of the plans we’ve heard so far from working. IF the SAC or anyone else can come up with something that will possibly work for this fishery, then we can pursue it, but until then, we can’t.
Dana – Can we get fishermen to say how many days they are going to fish in particular areas to get a better idea of what is going on? How would we know?
Togue: No way to enforce that. We’d capture what they said, but not what they did necessarily.
Andy: It appears that quotas and reporting is not the solution – let’s take this off the table. Let’s focus on what might actually work. For instance, statewide meat counts, lower limit, drag size, shorter season (fishermen said a vocal no to the latter!)
Closed areas – have areas without scallops – why can’t we re-locate scallops?
Junior: they won’t stay there.
Dana: if they are not overcrowded, they don’t need to be moved.
How about taking one area and doing an experiment? Take the “Reach”, put scallops in the middle and see if they spread out. Dana pointed out the issue of oceanography. Makes sense if you have a really heavy spat fall.
Justin: I’d like to see movement of scallops within the closed areas.
There was discussion of whether or not this might work. Togue said she’s reluctant to do anything within the closed areas until we see what happens: certainly not going to move scallops from closed to open areas. Justin said he meant within, not from closed to open. Linda said this was something that the Dept. would be willing to consider.
Terence: I’d like to see movement of scallops: 6-7 years ago we did it. Area where they fished hard and scallops were big, another area where scallops got gray. Dumped some scallops from one area to the other. Fished on the scallops that were moved for a couple of years. Dumped scallops in areas where there weren’t any and nothing happened. Works when you move them to an area they like.
March 6 – Fishermen’s Forum – how other areas of the world have approached Closed Area Management
Proposed statewide limits:
• 135 lb Limit
• 5 ½’ drag size
• Meat count,
Frank: Would you consider the full season if we have these limits?
Togue: We’d consider working toward a full season, but we’re certainly not ready for it now. Right now Cobscook has all of these, in addition to a lot more scallops than other areas of the state, and they still get depleted every year. They’re growth overfished. If it doesn’t suffice for Cobscook, it certainly won’t be enough elsewhere, but it’s a start towards a recovery. Would need a lot more scallops to just say this is enough and open the full season up.
Frank: over 25 years ago, with state folks – in the cable area- we transplanted marked scallops. I’d like to see what happened with that.
Note: – need to look through Dan’s stuff to find info.
When closed areas open, we are going to have more effort. We could be more spread out without the closures. Already seeing an increase in effort due to more scallops.
Frank – would like to see Blue Hill Bay and SE Harbor closed to let them keep rebuilding.
For next meeting:
Movement of Scallops
Next meeting date and time will be determined after the Forum. George wants Togue to send the SAC the info about the Forum meeting as soon as she can. Togue noted with all that’s going on, it probably won’t be ready until just prior to the Forum.
Meeting Adjourned 6:38.