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The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) bears the statutory responsibility to conduct and sponsor scientific research in order to conserve and develop the marine and estuarine resources of the state.  These resources include more than 70 species that are harvested commercially, caught by saltwater anglers, or reared by aquaculture.  The total value of commercial landings was over $323.8 million in 1999, with lobsters, sea urchins, groundfish, shrimp, and scallops having the highest landed value.  An estimated 362,000 anglers spend in excess of $20 million annually in Maine’s saltwater recreational fishery as striped bass and other species have rebounded.  The aquaculture industry continues to grow and is now valued close to $64 million.  Nearly 90 percent of this revenue comes from the sale of Atlantic salmon, with the remainder from nori, oysters, mussels, trout, and freshwater species. 

In the last fifteen years the agency has faced an explosive demand for its services.  Factors that have contributed to this explosion include:  increased exploitation of traditional fisheries; new fisheries such as sea urchin and sea cucumber developed in response to the global market; a huge expansion of federal and interstate management -- now involving more than 36 Maine species; co-management, and the growth of saltwater recreational fishing and the aquaculture industry.   All of these factors have resulted in the need for scientific work on many more species and in more detail than ever before.  The growth and diversification of the aquaculture industry have pointed to the need to develop the research infrastructure to support the culture of new species and the development of new techniques. These developments have placed unprecedented demands on the scientific side of DMR. 

The DMR’s research and monitoring programs include coastwide water quality monitoring for the classification of shellfish growing areas, biotoxin monitoring, sampling commercial catches of lobsters, sea urchins, shrimp, and herring for inclusion in federal stock assessments, collecting commercial catch statistics, recreational fisheries sampling, aquaculture lease investigations, habitat mapping, seaweed management, oil spill response activities, restoration of anadromous fish resources to Maine rivers, and fishery independent assessments of marine and estuarine resources.  Research programs target only a few of the species harvested in the Gulf of Maine, which hampers the DMR’s ability to manage many species effectively on the state, interstate, and federal levels. 

As the pressure on Maine’s marine resources continues to increase, it is even more essential to carry out the necessary research to determine how to maintain a sustainable resource base.  Well-planned fishery management measures require a solid knowledge of the resource.   With limited resources, DMR focuses on applied research that is focused on what is harvested, by whom, how, where, etc., for use in fishery stock assessments, the basis for current single-species management decisions.  However, this approach clearly is severely limited.  It is also important to understand basic life history, ecological processes, and the physical and climatic processes that impact fish stocks.   Better understanding of these areas is needed to enable the development of an ecosystem approach to fishery management.    

Development and implementation of a comprehensive research agenda will require input and involvement from the broad marine science stakeholder community in Maine.   Input from members of the fishing and aquaculture industries, marine research community, environmental managers, and marine public interest groups is needed to identify leading fisheries management issues and determine research and information needs to address these issues.  

The goal of this project is to establish and communicate the State’s fisheries research priorities in order to ensure that fishery management decision-making processes are based upon the best scientific and technical information.  By establishing and communicating a shared vision of comprehensive research needs, the DMR will be able direct internal funding decisions appropriately; identify and involve potential research partners in the broader marine science community, including the fisheries and aquaculture industries.  It will also allow DMR to develop quick responses to outside funding opportunities as they arise. 

Linda Mercer
Bureau of Resource Management
Maine Department of Marine Resources


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