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Maine Shellfish Advisory Council Meeting Minutes, December 8, 2009


Members of the SHAC attending: V.Olsen, F.deKoenig, L. Howell, M. Craig, J. Fancy, N. Pollis, D. Devereaux, R. Lemont, A. Simmons
DMR staff in attendance: D. Etnier, L. Mercer, A. Fitzpatrick, M. Cumbo, D. Couture, A. Bourakovsky, D. Nault, M. Mason
Others: Sebastian Belle (MAA), Stephen Peats (Aqua Maine), Janet Winslow (Aqua Maine).

The DMR Shellfish Advisory Council meeting began at 2:00 PM. Minutes from the April and September meetings were approved. Moved by N. Pollis and 2nd by L. Howell.

Growing Area Program Update (A. Fitzpatrick)

See attached.
D. Devereaux forwarded on praise from D. Corbeau for the Public Health Division’s work in Scarborough.

Biotoxin Monitoring Program Update (D. Couture)

The 2009 season is wrapped up and looks like the new worst year on record. There is still a closure on surf clams in southern Maine. The mahogany quahog fishery is open now but was shut down most of season. Biotoxin staff is currently doing some lobster tomalley testing. Cyst bed mapping shows record number of cysts out there which indicates the potential for another very bad Red Tide season next year.

Discussion: Is DMR doing any work on trying to use/develop new testing methods? The ISSC approved a new method this fall that uses High Power Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). DMR needs to validate the method for our use and it is very expensive. L. Howell asked what the advantage would be beyond not killing mice. Is it faster? A large number of samples can be run but technological expertise is required that is currently not available. The cost would be $150,000 per lab for the equipment and a controlled environment is needed that we do not have in Lamoine. We could perhaps go to a hybrid testing method using both HPLC and the mouse bioassay.

Public Comment: Sebastian offered to help support the need so that state is not at a disadvantage.

Municipal Shellfish Management Update (D. Nault)

Staff reductions are a challenge with only three positions in the program and reason absences. Annual reviews are going to a new online PDF web form that will provide both time and cost savings. Letters are going out to municipalities to explain the new system. More municipalities are conducting surveys. There has been an increase in license sales. Nonresident licenses and inappropriate sale (not reaching 10% nonresident allocations) have been an issue. There is a seven town interlocal agreement being developed for Frenchman’s bay that will add seven new towns to our program. Cobscook Bay is also looking at an interlocal agreement. V. Olsen would like to see the nonresident license fees to be double the resident fees (as they are in Stonington) instead of the current 1.5x the resident fee. This would be a statutory change. R. Lemont noted that at Popham Beach State Park, the river has cut in to the sand dunes. They have re-surveyed the flats down there because the Department of Conservation is working with ACOE to dredge Morse River. DOC is looking for approval from riparian land owners and will to work with the shellfish committee.

Status of Pilot Project (A. Fitzpatrick)

See attached Growing Area Update.

Utilization/Certification of Private Labs in Pilot Projects

David explained that this is on the agenda because it was part of the legislation that was passed. Aqua Maine was present and invited to speak. S. Peats said that they are located in Rockport and excited about possibility of working on projects. He stated that M. Cumbo was very open and helpful, and invited him to come to her lab to see what DMR does. Aqua Maine is certified for drinking water and follows standard EPA methods. When he realized that they would need to follow FDA guidelines he concluded that the additional expense (~$10,000 for equipment) and lack of assurance of having pilot project work would prevent Aqua Lab from participating in the pilot projects. He asked if they have to follow the FDA-approved procedure or could they follow EPA Standard Procedures which includes proficiency testing, etc. A. Simmons asked how they process samples from the Medomak R. S. Peats said that they would use total coliform and E. coli as outlined in EPA Standard Procedures. M. Cumbo clarified that towns can have samples run with other methods to identify pollution sources but these data are not used by DMR for classification. L. Howell also pointed out that there are costs involved in re-writing procedures, training on maintenance of bench sheets, and keeping up to date. V. Olsen stated that the Maine Seafood Alliance had some interest in using private labs. D. Devereaux observed that it looks like the process of getting private labs certified is not going to happen. Do we have to go back to the Legislature? D. Etnier said that we reported back to them last session. DMR would like to wrap this up in some way; it has been contentious and people had a lot invested in this idea. Unless there is a guarantee of a steady flow of samples, steps to get certified are not going to be taken. D. Devereaux recommended that the SHAC should close the door on this and write a letter to the Legislature saying that this is not feasible. M. Cumbo clarified that laboratory capacity to process samples has never been the issue, but rather sufficient staffing for data evaluation, doing sanitary surveys and writing reports. The addition of technicians in the labs is allowing Specialists more time to write reports. L. Howell agreed that the Legislature should be notified that to date this hasn’t worked, but would like us not to close the door on a private lab ever becoming certified. D. Etnier asked if the SHAC or subcommittee would like to write a letter. V. Olsen suggested that the pilot project subcommittee would do this. L. Howell will draft the letter for review by the subcommittee (D. Devereaux, F. deKoenig, J. Porada, V. Olsen, L. Howell), DMR staff, and other members. They will include D. Corbeau’s appreciation, the Katahdin memo and anything from Aqua Maine.

Public Comment: S. Belle supports L. Howell’s recommendation not to close door on use of private labs in the future. D. Etnier state that DMR has always been concerned about use of private labs and would like to have the DMR program adequately funded so that all areas of the coast get the same treatment , not just those who have the fiscal resources. It would be better to bring all components of DMR’s program to the highest possible level to create a level playing field. S. Belle agreed and stated that he lobbied hard for DMR to get additional resources.

Federal Fisheries Disaster Relief Request (D. Etnier)

The Governor sent out letter written in early October to Sec. Locke (Commerce). He received a response that NOAA was requested to get back to us. We haven’t heard anything yet. If we get disaster aid we would run it like the 2005 funds and get the money out to the industry using the same model.

October ISSC Meeting review (Amy, Lori, Ginny)

  • Postharvest processed product – not an issue for Maine.
  • Two new testing methods were approved – one submitted by FDA (MSC) was approved. Lori’s lab helped validate it. The other process was for V. vulnificus for post harvest processing
  • A guidance document for re-call procedures that lays out responsibilities for FDA, state agencies and certified dealers. There have been communication problems between dealers and regulatory agencies.
  • Proposal for oysters for V. parahaemolyticus (V.p.)– cooling down to 50º in 10 hours. A. Fitzpatrick provided a summary of confirmed V. p. illness reports. M. Cumbo said that V.p. may become a problem for us as water temps rise. Our lab did a risk assessment based mainly on the Damariscotta River where oysters are primarily harvested. Right now we have 16 hours from harvest to cooling. There are differences for intertidal and subtidal harvested oysters. It doesn’t look like we have a risk problem right now for subtidal harvest. There is a risk in July and August for intertidal harvest. The time for cooling would need to be reduced to 10.5 hours to reduce risk. We need a broader look at Maine to see where oysters are being harvested. The V.p. cases were all clams except for one which had oysters from several sources. We also need to look at clams to determine if we have a problem. . Olsen and L. Howell noted that crab, shrimp, and lobster also may have V.p. M. Cumbo noted that lobsters are generally cooked more than clams. There is also the issue of cross contamination. D. Devereaux asked what other states do as far as temperature triggers. L. Howell said that Texas has one hour from harvest to refrigeration. Washington and Alaska (which have similar conditions to Maine) have had lots of illnesses and are required to have V.p. control plans.
  • FDA said that all Gulf coast oysters would have to be post harveste processed. The FDA has since backed, but is moving forward on changing HACCP guidelines. F. deKoenig asked if you take shellfish and submerge them, is that enough to prevent illness. M. Cumbo said that V.p. grows rapidly at warm temperatures. R. Lemont asked how long you have to cook those (10 minutes at 140 º). D. Devereaux asked about food labeling. The warning about raw or undercooked shellfish but does not apply to retail sales. V. Olsen said that this is an education problem and wondered where we go to start this. L. Howell said that the Gulf dealers want more education. But education is expensive. A. Fitzpatrick said that restaurant inspectors are very understaffed. She meets with Department of Agriculture staff and the restaurant inspectors annually about issues. M. Craig asked if there anything that ties Vibrio’s to nutrients and run off? L. Howell said that they are naturally occurring. M. Cumbo said that some think that nutrients contribute to their growth.
  • Frozen requirement– once something is frozen it must stay frozen.

Wolf’s Neck Farm Update: (A. Bourakovsky)

DMR reclassified in 2008 to Approved after Best Management Practices were implemented. The area was downgraded in 2009 as the result of high fecal scores following rainfall. It was found that BMPs were not being followed. There has since been work on BMPs, removal of cows, and water quality sampling. Water Quality now is meeting approved standards and samples collected after rainfall are not showing elevated fecal numbers and the area has been upgraded with the understanding that with the introduction of new livestock, areas will have to be closed to see if BMPs are strict enough to maintain approved standards. D. Etnier noted that Commissioner Lapointe has been engaged in this issue with the Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection and the Town of Freeport.

S. Belle is aware that Agriculture is concerned about this as a statewide issue and asked if we think there are BMPs that can work. A. Bourakovsky said that manure storage is probably the biggest issue – how it’s stored, how frequently it is removed, and pathways for runoff. Also permanent fencing for low lying areas and sufficient vegetation to provide a buffer are necessary. M. Craig said there is a need for more of a comprehensive approach to work with farms and asked whether we see that happening. A. Bourakovsky said that Wolfe’s Neck Farm is kind of a unique situation. The Department of Agriculture is going to be working with other farms but not sure about the rest of the coast. M. Craig said there is federal money to work with NRCS. There is no requirement to follow BMPs unless getting help from NRCS.

Piscataqua River Issue (L. Howell)

City of Portsmouth is under a mandate to upgrade their sewage treatment system. Desire is to move it up the river near Great Bay and close to a bathing beach above Spinney Creek. She is trying to heighten awareness of the issue. Maine has very little input on this even though we border the river. The city wants to expand capacity from 6 to 8-10 million gallons/day. Maine DEP is now engaged in following the issue.

Access of private lands – (D. Etnier)

A draft policy is being developed. This became an issue with the frequency we needed to access private process this past summer. He will share electronic copy for comments. We need to disseminate to broad audience. We may need to see if we need to amend our statute to get clearer authority. L. Howell asked how we look at septic systems. A. Fitzpatrick said that we have to ask property owners. 80% of time people are not home. If they refuse us, we notify the local Code Enforcement Officer. DEP does have authority to do this.

Workplan with DEP – (A. Fitzpatrick)

Letters were sent to towns with a shellfish ordinance requesting priority areas for us to look at to develop workplan for shoreline surveys by February 1 as required by law. (see attached legislation). D. Etnier noted that the SHAC is specifically mentioned as giving recommendations. M. Craig asked if we have thought about developing a process based on amount of resource, etc. A. Fitzpatrick said, yes, we are working on a process that includes considerations such as whether there is commercial or recreational use, number of harvesters, etc. F. deKoenig asked about the 2” rainfall criteria. A. Fitzpatrick said that it is based on data.

Old Business

Enhanced retail seafood license rules are before the DMR Advisory Council. D. Etnier will send out copies of the rule.

Other Updates

D. Etnier will provide links to 5-6 bills going to the Legislature. One is technical changes and one part moves timeframe from a calendar year to April 1-March 31 for the Enhanced Retail Seafood License.

DMR has a Saltwater License bill that was carried over and proposes to create a license with associated fees; another bill creates a registry. The federal government is requiring a federal registry in January 2010 for free. If states have not done something by 2011, the feds will charge up to $25 for a license. DMR supports the license bill, not a free registry. There are costs for implementation, enforcement, data processing. Marine Patrol will have to divert effort to enforcement.

Supplemental budgets: DMR has given up over $900K for the remainder of the 2010-2011 Biennium. It includes cutbacks on Marine Patrol mileage, shifts in positions to various Special Revenues and most of those sources of revenue are declining and will run out of money by 2013. We will be proposing to raise fees or cut programs.

V. Olsen said that her shellfish committee is looking at increasing the ring size to 2.25” for clams. This can be done locally because it is more conservative than the state size.

S. Belle asked about Agency consolidation. It is in the Governor’ proposed Supplemental Budget to consolidate from four agencies to 1 and attempts to book $1 million in savings.


The meeting adjourned at 4:45.