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DMR Home > Penobscot Closure

Limited Closure for Crab and Lobster Harvesters at the mouth of the Penobscot River to Take Effect February 22

In order to protect public health and consumer confidence while building on recently received data, the Maine Department of Marine Resources will close a small area at the mouth of the Penobscot River to harvesting of crabs and lobsters for a minimum of two years.

The closure of an area that extends from Wilson Point across to Fort Point and north into the river, will take effect February 22, 2014.

“This closure is being taken as a precautionary measure in response to information the Department of Marine Resources recently received about mercury contamination in muscle tissue from lobsters found in this area,” said Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher.

The information, which came to DMR’s attention in November 2013, is contained in a federal court-ordered study. After being notified of the study’s findings, the DMR asked State Toxicologist Andrew Smith from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to analyze the study’s data. The DMR took the original study and Smith’s analysis under advisement and ultimately opted to implement a discrete closure to ensure that no lobsters from this area make it into the marketplace.

The area within the closure where lobsters are harvested is approximately 7 square miles out of more than 14,000 square miles in the Gulf of Maine where lobsters are harvested. “We chose to close this small area to harvesting for both commercial and recreational fishermen as a precautionary approach that protects public health and ensures consumer confidence that eating Maine lobster is safe and healthy while we conduct our own monitoring effort that will build on these new data,” said Commissioner Keliher.

Maine Marine Patrol will be working with harvesters to ensure all gear is removed from the affected area as soon as possible. Currently, there is very limited commercial harvesting of any species in the mouth of the Penobscot River, as most local commercial harvesters have either stopped for the season or moved their operations down the bay. The Department has begun to reach out to harvesters and dealers to discuss the closure and plans for on-going monitoring.

DMR, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services will be working together over the next two years to conduct seasonal monitoring of mercury levels in lobsters and crabs in and near the closed area. “The monitoring will be conducted in and adjacent to the closed area and will evaluate the accumulation of contaminants,” said Commissioner Keliher. “We will decide, after two years, whether or not to re-open the area or to continue the closure.”

“Maine lobster is the best in the world and we’re taking very precautious steps to protect this valuable, unique resource and to assure consumers that they can continue to be confident that our lobsters are safe and healthy to eat,” said Commissioner Keliher.

Click here for a list of frequently asked questions.

Below is a map of the closure area inset into a map of the coast of Maine with the closure area shown in the red square.

Penobscot River Closure Map