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Maine Shellfish Advisory Council Meeting Minutes, September 1, 2009


The Department of Marine Resources Shellfish Advisory Council met September 1, 2009, at 10:00 AM in Hallowell, with the following members present: Virginia Olsen, Lori Howell, Neil Pollis, Joe Porada, Dan Devereaux, James West, John Fancy, Matt Craig, and Abden Simmons. Commissioner George Lapointe, Deputy Commissioner David Etnier, Amy Fitzpatrick, Denis-Marc Nault, Mercuria Cumbo and Darcie Couture were present from the Department of Marine Resources.

Public Health Division Growing Area Program Update and Discussion (Amy Fitzpatrick)

Staffing update: Interviews for the three new positions set for 9/8-9/11. One of the MR Technicians leaving in October will file for exemption for hiring. We received Tier I exemption approval for laboratory staff to work on shutdown days. We have to ask for exemption at each shutdown day for anyone else to work.

2009 FDA Growing Area Evaluation: Report posted on website. One program deficiency noted that there was limited overland runoff and stream evaluation in triennial and sanitary survey reports. It was noted that the reports did contain more information than in previous years however there was limited stream and runoff prone area impact assessment particularly in areas that are classified approved for direct market harvest. There was one recommendation in the report to have staff members follow the SOP for marina inspections and evaluations at the start and end of the season.

Shoreline survey update: We have collaborated all season with DEP on a schedule of shoreline survey to maintain compliance or ‘get ahead’ in 2009. Flood closures have put us a bit behind overall but we should be able to get everything done that we set out to do without closing areas. We hold a conference call monthly with DEP and ME CDC Environmental Health personnel to do a process check and to allocate or re-allocate resources.

SOP changes to consider: Requested consideration of the ability to close based on storm surge associated with tropical storms or astronomical high tides; samples taken around the storm surge had elevated sample scores which were part of random sample runs. A second consideration was to delay opening flood closure areas when there is subsequent rainfall prior to opening of 1” or greater. The council did not support either of the requests to change the SOP.

Pilot project updates:

Scarborough - Accelerated sampling continues and shoreline survey is scheduled for the Nonesuch River area. EPA and MHB are conducting stream and stormwater drain assessments’ testing for Enterococci, E.Coli. (on fresh sites), pH, Salinity, DO., Surfactants, and Ammonia. EPA will contact the town after and work with them on using the video inspection camera in the storm drains.

St. George River - DMR received a confirmation letter via email that they are not interested in pursuing the study. Discussion by N. Pollis about whey they declined the project; too expensive, too complicated. A. Simmons related that he had attended the meeting where the St. George River Shellfish Committee discussed the proposed study plan and that the concern was that any study in the upper river may mean that the lower river conditionally approved area may be adversely affected and they were concerned about losing more ground.

Continued discussion about a second pilot project and the group decided that the DMR did not have to do another mailing to solicit requests. [is this correct?]

M. Cumbo provided an update on the private laboratory evaluation status. The group requested that the private laboratory representatives come and speak to the council regarding their experience with laboratory evaluation.

New Rain Report Group: CoCoRaHS ( is an acronym for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. CoCoRaHS is a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow). By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and utilizing an interactive Web-site, their aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications. NOAA sponsors the group. The local sponsors and trainers are the NWS offices in Gray and Caribou. Training required. We are in contact with the group to try and work with them on reporting.

Other concerns: Private citizens are expressing concern with the use of volunteers to collect water samples. Their issue is one of volunteers crossing private property to reach sampling sites; particularly shellfish harvester volunteers crossing private property to do such work. They do not mind state employees crossing their property 6x a year but even state employees 35+ times a year because of floods – they are not happy; particularly on holiday weekends.

Our database has recently been updated and the reporting mechanism is still be developed. We have not posted any 2009 tabulated data on the website but have had many requests. We will post it and fulfill other data requests as soon as the reporting mechanisms are completed and we have had staff members trained on how to use the new report queries.

New Positions Budget (D. Etnier)

D. Etnier reported that the new positions received $80,000 as a one time line item from Submerged Lands that would not be continuing after the 2 year budget cycle. The council will have to work with the DMR to find a way to backfill the $80,000 before the next budget.

Biotoxin Monitoring Program Update and Discussion (D. Couture)

D. Couture reported that the 2009 toxin year was the worst year – even worse than the 2005 event. Marine patrol officers and local shellfish wardens made a huge difference in what areas had to be closed and how long the closures needed to stay in place due to their targeted sampling efforts. The 2009 toxin scores are comparable to the 1970’s and it appears that we are on a new decadal cycle.

Sampling and analysis of scallops, whelks, lobster/lobster tomalley and other special species will continue through the winter with the federal emergency monies. Lobster/lobster tomalley sampling and analysis did not occur during the summer due to the federal funds not coming in for the season.

D. Couture will also work on education and outreach this winter by attending meetings up and down the coast and on the islands.

Municipal Shellfish Management Program Update and Discussion (D. Nault)

D. Nault will provide the mussel management plan to the MAA. Work on amending Chapter 7 soon with a public comment period.

Status of Pilot Projects – Scarborough and Georges River (A. Fitzpatrick)

See Growing Area Update Section above.

Ban on Dragging Hard Clams (J. Porada)

Currently Middle and Maquoit Bays have a ban on dragging for hard clams. J. Porada wanted to know why the ban was put into place. D. Devereaux responded that it was for eel grass protection. J. Porada reported that his regional shellfish council would like an area [what area?] protected and that quahog areas are eel grass areas. [G. Lapointe ?] stated that the DMR was not at the point where we are ready to ban dragging.

Upcoming ISSC Meeting (L. Howell, G. Olsen, A. Fitzpatrick)

ISSC is being held in Manchester, NH from October 17 – 23, 2009. It is the closest it will be for many years and industry is strongly urged to attend. L. Howell reported that Chad Coffin received the industry registration waiver offered by the ISSC. L. Howell offered to meet with any industry members to go over the proposals that are going to be vetted at the conference.

Old Business

New Business

D. Etnier updated about technical changes bills for a calendar year license to expire on March 31 for the enhanced retail seafood license so that it expires with the rest of the licenses.

G. Lapointe reported on global climate change being a big topic. Climate change is impacting the severity of storms (flood closures) and psp/red tide blooms. Emergency response funds were being requested under the Magnuson Act.

D. Etnier reported on budget shortfall issues looming.

L. Howell and other council members recommended that the Growing Area Classification program continue to work on collecting more adverse data.

Neil Pollis, Dick Lemont and Dan Devereaux’ council seats expire at the end of the year. Do they wish to run for their seats again?

The meeting was adjourned at 12:00pm.