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Advisory Council Meeting
August 23 , 2018 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (upstairs conference room)
284 State Street, Augusta
Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director, Bureau of Resource Management
Nate Webb, WRAS Supervisor
Nathan Bieber, Deer Biologist
Francis Brautigam, Director of Fisheries and Hatcheries
Joe Overlock, Fisheries Management Section Supervisor
Matt Lubejko, Coldwater Fisheries Biologist
Shon Theriault, Game Warden Captain
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Don Dudley (Chair)
Shawn Sage - by phone
Brian Smith - by phone
Gary Corson, New Sharon
Fern and Sylvia Bosse, Norway
Katie Hansberry, HSUS
Brian Cogill, MTA
Chris Bartlett, Eastport Deer Reduction Committee
Jeff Reardon, Trout Unlimited
Nelson Palmer, Kennebec Valley Fur Takers
I. Call to order
Don Dudley, Council Chair, called the meeting to order.
Don Dudley, Council Chair, called the meeting to order.
Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Scribner.
Vote: unanimous - minutes approved.
IV. Rule Making
A. Step 3
1. 2018 Any-deer permit allocations
Mr. Connolly stated there was an increase in permits due to the weather and a healthy deer population. He did not believe there were comments received that were problematic.
Ms. Orff stated we received between 50 and 60 written comments. Some were in favor, some were against, some neither for nor against, it was pretty well balanced.
Mr. Smith stated he was opposed to the 25 permits in WMD 27, and then he met with Mr. Bieber and other biologists. When they finished their presentation, he was in support.
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier to accept the proposal as presented, and that was seconded by Mrs. Oldham.
Vote: unanimous - motion passed.
2. Special falconry season correction/Controlled moose hunt permits
Commissioner Woodcock stated this was discussed previously. We had inserted the word geese in the falconry season and that was being removed. The controlled moose hunt had an additional 5 disabled veteran permits for residents being proposed.
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham to accept the proposal as presented, and that was seconded by Mr. Sage.
Vote: unanimous - motion passed.
B. Step 2
1. Beaver Season and Closures/Furbearers
Mr. Webb stated every year we made minor adjustments to the beaver season closures through the request from landowners. This year the only request we received and put forth was the removal of a closure in Alna in WMD 25. For the fisher season we were proposing to increase the length of the fisher season in southern and central Maine by 2-weeks. The weeks would be added to the end of the season and that was in WMDs 12, 13 and 15-29. In 2014 we implemented an emergency closure to the martin and fisher seasons due to the incidental capture of two lynx. That resulted in a decline in fisher harvest statewide as well as in the portion of the state we were proposing to extend the season, as well as a decline in the number of trappers that caught one or more fisher. Starting with the 2015-16 season we implemented mandatory exclusion devices for martin and fisher trapping and that caused a further decline. Overall, both on a statewide basis and in the specific area, we were talking about extending the season. The decline was roughly 75% in the fisher harvest from post exclusion device as compared to before we made the change. A fairly dramatic decline in the harvest. The fisher trapper success rate, that was the number of fishers caught per trapper that captures at least one fisher, was a pretty good barometer for trends in fisher populations and remained fairly constant over time. Those trappers that were out pursuing fisher and being successful were still capturing between 2 Ĺ and 3 fisher per year. We felt confident that the decline in harvest was due to reduced participation by trappers in that season, that was the basis for the 2-week extension. The bag limit of 10 fisher per trapper would remain in place.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Fortier asked if the weather this year with extreme heat and lack of feed played into that.
Mr. Webb stated it did, but the pattern was more obvious with marten. We had a long history of seeing sort of a 2-year cycle with the marten harvest and we believed that was linked to the beech nut cycle. Years there were abundant beech nuts there were more small mammals and alternate prey for marten and trapper success seemed to be lower. Certainly, weather conditions during the season could impact trapper participation.
Mr. Sage asked what was the purpose of adding the days if we wanted the same amount.
Mr. Webb stated we were comfortable with the harvest level for fisher which was roughly 1,000 animals per year prior to the implementation of exclusion devices. Adding two weeks to the season in that part of the state would give more opportunity for those trappers and still keep us below the harvest level we believed was sustainable.
Mr. Dudley stated he was at a guides meeting and one of the comments made was they had cameras out on bear baits and were seeing fisher like never before. He thought there were a lot of fisher out there and they were not going to catch the same amount of fisher with the exclusion devices they were required to use as they did in the past. Another factor with not catching as many fisher was they were one of the main predators for lynx. The limit would still be 10 fisher so he did not see much changing.
Mrs. Oldham stated the average harvest per trapper really hadn‚€™t changed, it was the participation number that seemed to have tilted the scale. Perhaps it was the expense of getting the exclusion devices as opposed to the device itself.
Mr. Sage stated the cost of fur had hit bottom. He taught trapper safety and that was one of the most filled classes. He had people calling constantly. Talking with the trappers association their focus was more on trapping bear.
Mr. Lewis stated a lot of the trappers he talked to did not want to mess with the exclusion device.
Mr. Dudley stated there was a certain amount of refusal. When trapping on the snow they could tell the refusal they got from the exclusion devices that they didn‚€™t seem to get with the tree setting. There seemed to be plenty of fisher.
Mrs. Oldham asked what the status was of delisting lynx in Maine.
Mr. Connolly stated the USFWS had reviewed the species status assessment and recommended that a rule be put forth to delist the lynx. They were talking about trying to get that in place in the fall. Because it required a process to delist, they had to put forth a rule and go through a comment period. They had reached out to the 14 states that had lynx and invited them to participate in the process for creating the rule.
Mrs. Oldham asked if it was delisted, would the rule for exclusion devices change.
Mr. Connolly stated no. Our rules were in place and were done because of our responsibilities under our incidental take permit (ITP) in order to protect lynx. Separate from that was the delisting proposal. If the delisting proposal went through then that would change our liability under our ITP because it wouldn‚€™t be necessary anymore. The separate decision the state would have to make was how were we going to manage trapping in order to address any concerns we had. There was a 5 year period after any animal was delisted that the USFWS required states to participate in reviewing the population of that species to make sure that they were not adversely impacted by delisting. There was no open season on lynx and Maine protected lynx before they were listed and we would have a responsibility to do that for any species there was a closed season on.
Mr. Fortier stated for the delisting, was there a number of families that had to be maintained to be able to apply to have it taken off.
Mr. Connolly stated there was a federal standard in terms of the status of a population that had to be met. It wasn‚€™t a particular number of animals, it was the relative distribution of the species, the ability for it to withstand the pressures that caused mortality within the population, changes over time, etc. The species status assessment was kind of a state of affairs with lynx and the 5 year review was an evaluation of what those meant in relation to the standards for the endangered species act. The feeling was from a fish and wildlife directorate that reviewed the species status assessment that lynx were at a point where they should be delisted. It wasn‚€™t just the state meeting criteria it was the entire U.S. where lynx were present where the rule applied which was not Alaska, you were allowed to trap lynx in Alaska. It was the lower 48 states and there were 14 states that had lynx that were impacted by the rule. The population was looked at across all 14 states. There was a way to evaluate the health of the population and its ability to persist over time and withstand the pressures that would cause mortality or decline of the species that had to be met. Maine had the highest population of lynx in the lower 48 and we anticipated, based on the work that we had done with trappers in protecting lynx and the work forest landowners had done managing their land to have habitat suitable for lynx, that they would continue to persist into the future. That was our contribution to the species status assessment. Since the listing was put in place we had used Pitman Roberson monies and worked with trappers to understand lynx dynamics and how healthy the population was in Maine.
Mr. Fortier asked if the feds could move what they would use for criteria.
Mr. Connolly stated the criteria for implementing the endangered species act were in place and there were policies and guidelines that did that. There wasn‚€™t any proposal to do that. We contributed our information to the species status assessment, it was relevant and impactful. The recommendation from the directorate of the 5-year review was to delist. The USFWS needed to create the rule saying what the conditions would be for them to delist and then put it in place through the federal rulemaking process.
Commissioner Woodcock stated he would like to compliment staff. During the species assessment our biological work played a major role in some of the decision making. Our staff was highly regarded and widely respected nationally.
Mr. Sage stated on the marten and beaver, had we looked at, especially in southern Maine, expanding the timeframe for beaver. With trapper activity going down only so many trappers could help dispose of the beavers that were becoming an issue.
Mr. Webb stated the harvest of beaver over the past several years were down. Pelt prices were very low and it was arguable whether it was worth it for most trappers. Trapper participation in beaver trapping which was similar to fisher and marten what really drove the harvest level which was way down was primarily pelt prices. We were in regular communications with the trappers association to talk about the issue and there had been in the past 4 or 5 years a number of changes to fisher trapping seasons to extend the season. The feeling was at this point was that any further extension would put us into a period when the pelts weren‚€™t prime and would further reduce the value.
2. Eastport Special Hunt
Mr. Connolly stated we were in the third and final year of the Eastport special hunt. There were some tweaks last year made to the hunt to give additional tags to successful hunters. They had 9 hunters harvest 31 deer, 30 does and 1 immature buck in 2017 which was an improvement over the 11 deer harvested in the first year of the hunt. The change was impactful and we were recommending to proceed with the third year as proposed.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Dudley stated they had done a good job, they had stepped up the harvest unlike some of the other special hunts that had been approved. The deer that were harvested were studied, and there were no ticks found on them and he was curious why.
Chris Bartlett stated he suspected they were just behind the curve. They had contacted Chuck Lubelczyk at the CDC and asked if he would like to come and do a spring sweep for ticks. He was not able to make it that year. Mr. Bartlett stated he knew ticks were along the coast but just hadn‚€™t reached them yet.
Mr. Sage asked what happened to the meat from the deer that were harvested.
Chris Bartlett stated all hunters that harvested deer took their own deer. In his area hunting and giving away wild game was part of the culture. Hunters for the Hungry offered to pay for processing of all donated deer and only one deer was donated. They continued to make that offer each year. There had not been a lot of deer donated because people were getting them directly from the hunters.
3. Fishing Regulations/State Heritage Waters 2019
Mr. Brautigam stated between the public hearing and written comments the greatest focus had been on a couple of the removals associated with the heritage program. He would say probably the next most common item would be related to changes to the Sebago Lake lake trout slot limit. Most of those comments with regard to Sebago reflected a desire for more aggressive change regarding the slot. At Sebago, the step was what he would view as an interim step. It was made in response to some additional data that became available as it related to lake trout growth rates. His expectation was that over the next 6-8 months we would be doing some additional modeling and assessment to better evaluate the direction we needed to go. The approach we undertook with the current slot was a top down control approach. We were having challenges with anglers not harvesting enough lake trout in Sebago and as a result the lake trout population was not declining and was inhibiting our ability to manage for a high quality wild landlocked salmon fishery. We put the new regulation in place based on research that was done out west in an effort to try to stabilize lake trout population growth by providing more larger individuals that would help suppress the population.
Mr. Brautigam stated unfortunately, the data that was recently compiled on Sebago Lake as it related to growth rates indicated it would take about 20 years for lake trout to work through the slot we had established. That was a long time to wait for a determination as to whether or not this would be an effective strategy. The step we had taken in slightly reducing the slot was in an effort to mitigate for any additional lake trout we added to the slot to give us more time to evaluate whether we wanted to stay with the top down approach in making the slot or whether we wanted to move in a different direction. The impetus for the current regulation in place was to try to biologically manage a population in such a way it would self-regulate because we couldn‚€™t get enough harvest from recreational anglers. The only other option we had at the time we were exploring this new slot limit that‚€™s currently in place is we were looking at the possibility of commercial harvest which we didn‚€™t feel was going to be socially acceptable.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Scribner stated there was a linkage between the larger togue at the higher end of the slot and the number of smaller togue. Were the larger togue preying on the smaller togue in terms of a biological control?
Mr. Brautigam stated that was a small piece. Some of the work that had been done looking at lake trout populations suggested that the larger lake trout were actually excluding some of the smaller lake trout from the better quality habitat. There was other research that suggested that as you cropped off the top end of lake trout populations it actually stimulated spawning. Fish would start maturing at a younger age. Other lakes out west were struggling with the same issues. They had taken more aggressive approaches where they had funding through hydro relicensing and they had undertaken a commercial harvest operation to deal with their population problems.
Mr. Scribner stated he could understand how a lot of the fishing public would think if you didn‚€™t have a slot more lake trout would be harvested. Therefore, the total number of lake trout would be down.
Mr. Brautigam stated the younger, faster growing fish were eating more and they were more active on the spawning scene. A lot of the modeling that was done tied it to forage. We were trying to maintain forage. We didn‚€™t care there were as many lake trout at Sebago Lake except for the fact they were limiting the amount of forage that was available for the primary focus, landlocked salmon. All of that suggested we were better off having a smaller population comprised of older age, larger individuals.
Mrs. Oldham stated the recommendation was promulgated by data from out west.
Mr. Brautigam stated the initial regulation was based on some of that work.
Mrs. Oldham stated we now had more current information from Sebago which indicated the regulation was going to take 20 years and was doomed not to achieve what we wanted to. The other thing we looked at was commercial harvest. If those were the two extremes she did not understand why. Was there an opportunity to do a regulation which had a better chance of succeeding short of commercial harvest.
Mr. Brautigam stated that had been the goal all along. We felt commercial harvest was not going to be palatable. We were trying to explore all the options that were available. With the recent data we knew it was going to take upwards of 20 years to fully evaluate whether or not the regulation would work. He did not think the public would be that patient and there were some concerns if it didn‚€™t work. We were trying to reduce the number of fish that were currently in the slot to buy more time to do additional assessment and monitoring in an effort to determine whether we wanted to commit to the top down approach or move in another direction. We did need a little time to do more assessment and decide what would be the best regulation to have in place.
Mrs. Oldham stated if we were talking about 1 year, how was the data going to change in 1 year for something we knew was going to take 20 years to decide. Why not just get rid of the slot this year?
Mr. Brautigam stated then obviously the approach and strategy we‚€™d taken to suppress the lake trout population would be removed. We‚€™d have to assume that approach was not going to work. He did not think we were there yet.Mrs. Oldham stated so we thought the proposal would work?
Mr. Brautigam stated he never suggested it wasn‚€™t going to work, the concern we had was it was going to take 20 years to evaluate whether or not the regulation was going to work. We now knew that based on data that was collected over the last 2 years on Sebago Lake. There were concerns from the public that it was going to take too long to see a change in the fishery. His concern was the public would not have the fortitude to weather it out and see if it worked. What we were trying to do was take available information and do some additional modeling. We hadn‚€™t done any modeling. We looked at lake trout growth rates and we developed some population estimates. We now had a pretty good handle on what the population of lake trout was in Sebago Lake which provided a basis for us to evaluate whatever changes we made.
Mr. Thurston asked if we could agree that the anglers out there fishing for lake trout were not keeping smaller fish to the degree we would like.
Mr. Brautigam stated it was a problem. Part of that was because Sebago Lake was so deep, it was the deepest lake in the state at 300 feet, it was a challenge. Some of the water where the smaller lake trout were present was challenging for anglers and they were not fishing that deep water. A lot of the anglers tended to catch some of the bigger fish that were in the slot because they were occupying the relatively shallow water in the lake system. The anglers perception was that the lake was full of lake trout that were within that slot. When we did our netting work under the spin program we saw that was not the case. There was a much larger biomass of fish that were under 23‚€ than the 23‚€-33‚€. They were just not in places where anglers were fishing. The people that got the smaller fish were the winter anglers that fished with jigging rods and set lines and fishing deeper parts of the lake.
Mr. Thurston asked if we were effective enough messaging that they should keep those smaller fish?
Mr. Brautigam stated when he worked in the region they posted signage at the access launches. When they conducted outreach at the clubs Sebago Lake was always a topic for discussion. We had certainly made an effort in trying to educate the public and make them aware we were trying to increase harvest of lake trout in Sebago Lake. The piece where they couldn‚€™t harvest in the slot had probably resulted in some people not wanting to fish the lake anymore.
Mr. Thurston stated the data would probably not change a lot. What we were looking for was time to focus on the next effort and what the possibilities of what the next efforts would be in order to figure out what we wanted to do.
Mr. Brautigam stated to clarify, when we established the slot we didn‚€™t have a lot of data to define what the slot should be. We knew there would need to be revisions over time. Even if we continued to track on using that slot as a strategy to suppress lake trout population growth. It was somewhat arbitrary picking the 23‚€-33‚€, there was also a lot of discussion that took place in the angling community about what the upper end ought to be.
Mr. Scribner asked if we felt like we had a good handle on the survival rate of the slot fish that were released since we were catching them out of deep water.
Mr. Brautigam stated not specifically on Sebago. If you looked at some of the other states, they had done a lot of work on the Great Lakes, certainly there was a lower survival rate for fish that were caught from deep areas of the lake and released. Especially during the summer months.
Mr. Lewis stated when the rule was put through before, Mr. Brautigam put on a great presentation and he was excited about it for some of the lakes in his area. He did not think this was a failed proposal, he thought it was growing. We had to figure out what was going to happen next. At Sebago was it possible like they did at Branch, they got a lot of participation and wiped out a lot of the small fish and they had come back quite well. Was there a way to get the public more into that.
Mr. Brautigam stated one of the big benefits on those other waters Mr. Lewis mentioned was the availability of ice angling. The ice angling crowd liked to harvest fish. The open water crowd was different. That was a challenge on Sebago Lake. We had done what we could do to encourage derbies and incentives to harvest smaller fish.
Mr. Fortier stated on the Fish River Chain, he noticed the last two years especially Eagle Lake, there was a lot more fishing going on. Since 2016 it was unlimited, now it seemed like they had more fish on Eagle Lake. He thought they would go there and take boat loads of fish. There weren‚€™t as many anglers but this year and last year he noticed a lot more boats and people fishing the Fish River Chain. One of the issues that happened there, especially after the springtime, the water was low off the shore and for instance on Square Lake it was very difficult to get a boat in. There wasn‚€™t an adequate boat launch site there. People with camps were ok because they would put their boats in early but they had people traveling up from the south and even the locals could not get boats in the water. If you wanted people to fish you needed an adequate boat launch. People would get frustrated and go to Eagle or Long Lake with great boat launches. Square Lake was not getting fished. It was a big lake but it didn‚€™t have easy access.
Mr. Brautigam stated that was a water where we did not have a state launch, it was a traditional launch site owned by a private landowner.
Mr. Scribner stated there seemed to be two other bodies of water that were contentious in the communications they received. One was Cold Water Brook Pond, whether or not it was still a pond. It looked like there were some inconsistencies in terms of the rule book in that we‚€™re still regulating it as a pond even though there was some question as to whether or not it was. The other one was Henderson Pond in terms of our desire to stock Henderson with Bald Mountain Pond charr. He asked Mr. Brautigam to talk to some of the justifications of the direction we were going with those bodies of water.
Mr. Brautigam stated he asked Mr. Overlock to pull together a recent report they compiled with regard to Bald Mountain Pond. He was providing it because it gave a pretty good overview of our historical and current management in our efforts to conserve one of 11 or 12 indigenous populations of charr that resided in Maine. Maine was the only state that supported charr populations in the lower 48. The populations that we had in the state were part of a sub-species that existed both in Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec and all total that sub-species represented just over 300 waters. Maine was the southernmost population within that sub-species. All those waters in Maine had been genetically tested so we had an understanding of the fact that they were all different. Because all these populations had been isolated for so long there had been no exchange between populations at least in Maine. They had all adapted to local conditions. We had some charr that could coexist with smelt and other places where smelt were the bane of charr‚€™s existence. We had a lot of waters with both charr and brook trout. They were very closely related, to some extent they could interbreed. As an agency we had always taken a very conservative approach to managing the charr population we had here in Maine because they were different. Morphologically if you looked at those populations like Bald Mountain Pond, it had a population of charr that was extremely small, they were not much more than 6‚€-7‚€. We had other populations like at Floods Pond that were considerably larger and more predatory in their feeding habits. The charr in Bald Mountain Pond were feeding more on zooplankton and invertebrates.
Mr. Brautigam stated there were a lot of differences in characteristics in the populations we had. We looked at each population as a distinct population and tried to manage and conserve each population as such. It was important to understand that as it was the underlying basis for why we put in such an effort that was detailed in the report to try to conserve that population and it was why we were looking at exploring other options to conserve the population that was now at risk because of the presence of an introduced population of rainbow smelt. Unfortunately, with the case of Bald Mountain Pond those introductions were documented around 2014. It was 2018 and there hadn‚€™t been a lot of time that lapsed. We dealt with smelt introductions on two other waters, Big Reed and Wadleigh. We had more time to react and plan and put forward a strategy in the case of both those waters to reclaim them using rotenone, basically killing off all the fish. Before that was done the fish were put in a hatchery, propagated and restocked. We had evidence of reproduction at Big Reed. We had not sampled Wadleigh, but based on reports there was a good population there. We had not documented reproduction yet, that would probably happen in the next year or two by regional staff.
Mr. Brautigam stated if they took the time to read the report they would see we identified a number of different conservation and management contingencies. We looked at the prospect of whether or not we could chemically reclaim Bald Mountain Pond. Because of its size and configuration and the amount of product that would be required and logistics involved we did not believe that reclamation was a viable option at this point in time. We looked at other options that included the prospect of doing something similar to what we had done with Big Reed and Wadleigh and trying to propagate the fish in a hatchery system in an effort to create enough fish to do something with them. Not necessarily with the intent of putting them back in Bald Mountain Pond because he was not sure that was a viable option in the absence of any kind of chemical reclamation effort. With the idea of trying to salvage that distinct population and manage it in a new home. We had discussions with Gary Picard who had a private hatchery that was no longer operational. We contracted with him to support hatchery cultivation of fish that were taken out of both Big Reed and Wadleigh. We had reached out to him to discuss potentially partnering with us at Bald Mountain Pond. He had a full-time position as Town Manager and was not really interested, but more importantly, he was deeply concerned by the fact that we were dealing with an extremely small charr in Bald Mountain Pond. When you took fish from the wild and put them in a hatchery it was not a smooth transition. The fish were used to certain feed and it was very challenging to get the fish accommodated in the hatchery. The smaller the fish were, the more difficult it was to manage the transition. He expressed great concern about the ability to be able to successfully cultivate those.
Mr. Brautigam stated in lieu of that, cultivation was probably not going to be a good prospect. The population appeared to have declined pretty rapidly over a short period of time. We continued to do monitoring and collections. We had not been able to catch many charr in the last couple of years. We did some netting that summer and caught one charr. We had very low numbers of fish, some might question whether there was anything that could even be done to conserve the population. We were committed to do everything we could and trying to outline as many contingencies as we could. People needed to appreciate the fact we had a low number of charr, they had been heavily impacted by the smelt population and we didn‚€™t have a lot of options. That was one of the reasons we identified Henderson as a potential receiving water for fish that we might be able to collect from Bald Mountain Pond through additional survey and sampling efforts. When we thought about where those fish could go, we went through a process to try to filter the waters in the state that would offer the best chance for success. We went through a process mostly in Region D, G and E, Region E had more waters that were suitable, and we ranked them. We did a filter search and at the top was Henderson. That was why it was being discussed and part of the packet. If we were successful in obtaining any charr from Bald Mountain Pond, directly transfer them over into Henderson Pond.
Mrs. Oldham asked if there was a non-state heritage water in the top 10.
Mr. Brautigam stated the top 4 were all heritage fish waters and 6 of the next 8 were heritage fish waters. There were 2 waters that were non-heritage fish waters. Based on characteristics, Henderson rose to the top.
Mrs. Oldham stated what a lot of them were concerned about was that so much effort, not only from IFW but volunteers and sportsman‚€™s organizations had gone into not only identifying the state heritage water but pushing it legislatively. Clearly, they all knew we were the home for most of the remaining eastern brook trout. To delist a good state heritage water set a really bad precedent. As this being the top option, the fact that Henderson came to the top of the list and so we were going to try to delist on that basis she thought was bad precedent for the Department. There were identified waters that were not state heritage. She knew we wanted to conserve that genetic population. The report was extensive and good work, but the problem solving tree that whatever was on top of the list was the best place; overall it set bad precedent, there were other suitable waters that had been identified and in terms of triage, when you had critically ill populations triage was always difficult. The end result of triage was that you saved the one you had the highest likelihood of saving. The charr population, she could understand an effort to preserve it but it sounded like the likelihood of it being successful was pretty low because we had such a small population of those fish. To set the precedent of delisting a state heritage water trying to save another fish, she thought was not in the best interest of the Department and the eastern brook trout.
Mr. Brautigam stated when we looked at this very challenging situation, recognizing that the prospect for getting any number of fish was going to be small, we wanted to make sure that whatever fish we could recover from Bald Mountain would be put in a place that would offer the best prospect for success. Whether Henderson for other reasons was the best choice, he appreciated that. From a biological standpoint it offered the best prospects for a successful transfer given that we felt we were going to be able to access only a small number of fish we felt we had to go for the best of the best in terms of exploring this contingency. In discussions with the heritage fish working group they talked about creating a vision for the heritage law and the need to decide if the original intent was still applicable today and what was the future of the heritage fish list.
Mr. Brautigam stated one of the things he struggled with was being the individual within the division ultimately responsible for the conservation of the state‚€™s fishery resources. We had other charr populations and he was sure we would have other situations develop where there were going to be other populations placed at risk. As we continued to add the very best charr waters to the heritage list under the current law we were precluded from considering those waters as transfer candidates without delisting. In his opinion he thought those populations, because charr and brook trout did coexist, there was no risk of charr being introduced into a water body and the population of brook trout disappearing. There was no evidence that would happen. Would there be competition between the two, there probably was wherever they coexisted. We had other populations and there was a desire to look at being more proactive in conserving the distinct genetic populations that existed in Maine and looking at doing some additional transfers. Where we had the luxury of an abundance of charr and we had waters that were not on the heritage list that we thought offered great prospects for success, it was worth experimenting. He would suggest that the 578 waters that were on the list represented the best waters that we had to conserve our charr populations in the state. It was important to think about how we wanted to manage a heritage fish, the arctic charr and brook trout were both heritage fish. Unfortunately, the charr existed in much lower abundance and were in need of more urgent attention. Moving forward, he thought in strategic planning they would see a vision established where we were interested in establishing more populations of arctic charr to create some redundancy in those populations. Where that could be done through a planned process utilizing non-heritage waters would be great, but he thought those waters were not going to be as conducive to those transfers as state heritage fish waters because they represented the best waters in the state. There was urgency with Bald Mountain Pond that drove the decision to try to advance the change to the heritage list.
Mrs. Oldham asked if there were ponds where charr were existing that were not designated as state heritage waters?
Mr. Brautigam stated yes.
Mrs. Oldham stated as she read the report there was an emphasis on the unique genetic population of those fish as opposed to waters where, there were genetics but they were still charr. Her interpretation was the emphasis was maintaining the genetic uniqueness of that population vs. putting them where they might have a chance to live even though the genetics of the charr might be different. Rather than delisting a state heritage water being at the top, put them in a non-state heritage water that already had charr successfully living there.
Mr. Scribner asked if there was another option that might be more complicated from a legislative perspective in terms of not delisting. If charr and brook trout comingled and survived but the issue was that because we were stocking charr into a heritage water we needed to delist, wasn‚€™t that the problem?
Mr. Sage stated reading the proposal it stated after 5 years then Henderson Pond would be proposed through rulemaking to be restored to the state heritage waters list. Didn‚€™t that have to be 25 years?
Mr. Brautigam stated the 5 year cap was to address the delisting and if we were not able to obtain charr from Bald Mountain Pond and complete the transfer it would be reinstated within 5 years. It was not that we were going to stock charr into Henderson.
Mrs. Oldham stated there were no existing charr in Henderson currently.
Mr. Sage stated if we were able to do that, then we wouldn‚€™t be able to put it back on.
Mr. Brautigam stated that was correct. The way the law was currently written we would have to wait. The 25 year timeframe was not entirely scientifically based. Mr. Brautigam stated he would like to clarify Mrs. Oldham‚€™s question on the genetic piece. The availability of genetic information had really blossomed. Genetic technology would probably continue to grow and we would be able to fine tune our assessments of populations and issues to a much greater extent moving into the future. The reason we had taken a very conservative approach in managing our charr waters as distinct populations was to reflect the fact that they may be evolutionarily advanced and developed to a point where they represented some other category beyond subspecies. We were trying to be sensitive and responsible and protect and maintain the integrity of those genetic populations. From a subspecies level, we should be able to mix and match but on the landscape when you looked at those populations they were different. All of that reflected some level of divergence.
Mrs. Oldham stated there was evidence this was a very distinct population from our other charr containing waters.
Mr. Brautigam stated yes, and we had additional testing that was in play to further refine some of the work that had been done in the past to better understand the level of divergence that may exist with those distinct populations. We currently had a contract with UMO on that.
Mr. Thurston stated this was due to an illegal stocking of rainbow smelt. That was the root cause of all the trouble. Unfortunately, we fought that battle in many different forms.
Commissioner Woodcock stated the heritage bill was his bill in cooperation with many of the NGO‚€™s in the room and individuals in the room, they were aware of the experience. He wanted to dispel the rumor there was political consideration that staff was trying to take away the integrity of the heritage list by putting Henderson on the top of the list. He and Mr. Brautigam had many discussions on Bald Mountain Pond. Mr. Brautigam had focused on the science from day one, he had never wavered from we needed to do the best we could for the issue. The issue was important, but he wanted to take away the political aspect that we were trying to do something illicit with the heritage waters. This was not an integrity of the heritage bill discussion for him politically, it was a science discussion. If it wasn‚€™t acceptable to people he appreciated that for scientific reasons. It was a wonderful discussion.
Mrs. Oldham stated there were some political ramifications in that so much effort had gone into designating these waters as important. The Commissioner always talked about science and the public and the balance between those. We lived in a political, public world and what she was concerned about was that the problem solving algorhythem for this particular problem that a state heritage water floated to the top of the list and therefore we‚€™re going to go with that. She could see having the state heritage water delisting as a last desperation measure when something like this came up. We had bodies of water that this political issue contained charr and we knew charr could live there. Because there were no charr in Henderson Pond we were assuming that the Bald Mountain charr would exist in Henderson Pond. That was the assumption but it hadn‚€™t been proven. We had bodies of water that didn‚€™t require the delisting political problem that contained charr. It was hard for her to understand other than the genetic purity, when you were in desperation measures sometimes you had to give up something.
Mr. Sage stated what Mr. Brautigam had said was the charr in one water may feed on minnows, but the charr in this water was feeding on invertebrates and plankton. If you took the fish and put them in that water, they may not have the proper feed like the issue with moving them to a hatchery. There was a reason why this water rose to the top and that was what he would like to know.
Mr. Brautigam stated it was a culmination of all the factors such as size, species assembly, etc. but the other piece which was not really captured in the data set was the habitat piece. The regional biologists knowledge and understanding of what the habitat was like in that water body and whether or not it was likely to best match with what a charr would need in terms of spawning. That piece was important and would help differentiate between some of the other waters. If this was more of a long term planning initiative, if we were planning to introduce charr to maintain some redundancy in those genetic populations more broadly it would be a slowed down process. We were trying to react to a fairly fluid situation that seemed to be rapidly moving in the wrong direction.
Mr. Scribner stated in terms of brook trout and charr, we had proven they could coexist in a particular body of water and our stumbling block was the delisting of a heritage water because we were stocking charr, was there any opportunity to somehow create an exemption for the stocking of charr in a heritage water so we did not have to delist.
Mr. Brautigam stated that was a topic that had been discussed with the heritage fish working group. He thought there was some interest in exploring that. He would like to explore that. He thought that was a shortcoming in the heritage law when it was conceived. He thought there was more of a focus on precluding the Department from stocking to create recreational fishing opportunities.
Mr. Lewis stated they had only caught one charr in Bald Mountain Pond. How many did we have to catch before we thought there were enough to move? What about getting rid of the problem there now, smelt or whatever. He had some bait dealers in his area that had been very effective in wiping out smelt populations. Was it a better option to try to wipe the smelt out or at least knock them down. It seemed like a problem to him moving fish from one body of water to another due to an illegal introduction. Were we not doing the same thing?
Mr. Brautigam stated the water had not been on the list due to the presence of charr. Given the charr abundance was now quite low, we would be open to adding that to the commercial list. He questioned how much use they would see there. It was pretty remote, but we were not opposed to adding that water to the list. It would probably be a recommendation as we developed the new commercial list for 2019. It was important to appreciate some of the efforts staff had undertaken to suppress the smelt population there. It was remote and a camp owner had allowed us access to conduct experimental smelt reduction efforts. We started by removing adults and that was very labor intensive and we did not feel we were making much of an impact. Smelt did not just use tributaries, they used the lake shoreline. The second phase investigation we were currently using as a suppression method. There had been work done elsewhere using electricity to kill eggs and the same method was applied to tributaries at Bald Mountain in an effort to kill deposited smelt eggs. We had also been monitoring hatch out with drift nets installed at the mouth of the brook. This was one of the few tools we had to try to maintain smelt population levels while we were trying to work through the next step. We did only get one charr; as one of our contingencies we‚€™ve got a number of radio tags at our availability if we‚€™re able to successfully get any amount of charr we‚€™re going to tag those fish. The goal is to follow the fish and hopefully set up some trapping devices wherever they‚€™re holding and find others there. If we‚€™re getting one or two fish we‚€™ll have a contingency laid out that will allow us to transfer the fish we get if we have a suitable home for them.
Mr. Overlock stated it was a very remote location and they had done a fair amount of night work dipping for smelts in the spring. We had experimented with drop nets to target smelts to see if that would be an effective method. It was particularly hard to access in the winter, it was only by snowmobile. It could be challenging to get anyone to do it even commercially.
Commissioner Woodcock stated muskie had come in and we were asked to support a muskie derby. Illegal introduction of smelt on a pond and we want to let commercial bait dealers go there and do some smelting. Mr. Brautigam had already suggested we were going to put it on the list for commercial dealers. It was a very sensitive issue. We had to be very careful about allowing commercial use of an illegally introduced species because the invitation was immense.
Mr. Scribner stated it seemed like from a regulation perspective that some of the comments that were received were that if Cold Water Brook Pond was not a pond why were we still regulating it like a pond?
Mr. Brautigam stated at one point we had a pond that had a self-sustaining population of brook trout. That was the result of the construction of the dam by the Department on Department owned property. The dam was breached, there had been some intermittent beaver activity. The pond was maybe 1 ‚€“ 1 Ĺ acres in size. Much like they would see on a lot of our flowages when you had beavers coming in and small impoundments, when he thought about the nomination criteria used to nominate waters for the heritage list, we were trying to find those waters that supported self-sustaining populations of brook trout exemplified; established robust populations. We had a healthy population at Cold Water Brook, the question was did the little area at the base of the dam represent a pond or a lake dwelling situation. To him it really didn‚€™t. The request to make the change came from the regional biologist looking at the list that was supposed to represent the best waters that were out there on the landscape, why would something more of a riverain stream dwelling population be added to that list. We did manage it as a little bit of a pond because in that part of the state they didn‚€™t have those kind of fishing opportunities. It was well used, there was a lot of interest in fishing there. He did not believe the biologist would be changing the regulations there other than possibly the slot. He was planning to manage it conservatively as a recreational opportunity to fish for wild brook trout. It was on Department owned land so why would we not manage it. We could change the name. It was more of a stream dwelling population.
There were no further comments or questions.
4. Fishing Regulations - Striped Bass
Mr. Brautigam stated the rule addition was being advanced at the request of the Dept. of Marine Resources (DMR). They were responsible for managing migratory and ocean fish. There was a larger entity, National Marine Fisheries Service that managed the migratory fish including striped bass and they had concerns that we did not have in fresh water sections of where striped bass occurred a regulation to protect that resource. We were advancing the rule change in response to that. Over time with the improvement of fish passage there had been more striped bass moving further inland on some of the river systems like the Penobscot and Kennebec.
C. Step 1
There were no items under Step 1.
V. Other Business
1. Big Game Species Plan - Deer Management update
Mr. Bieber gave a PowerPoint presentation on the species plan for white-tailed deer (available upon request to firstname.lastname@example.org )
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Fortier stated WMDs 1 and 2 traveling the area and seeing the increase in the deer population especially around WMD 3 because it was more in the farming community and the town. Seeing the deer population grow around a farming community in WMD 3, and then go into Ashland seeing more deer for the first 10 miles and then after that it was almost zero deer.
Mr. Bieber stated it was a real challenge trying to get an idea on what populations were doing up north because they were so shifty seasonally. They were really concentrated in the winter. We may need increased education on how to feed responsibly if people were going to feed. We didn‚€™t really know if deer moved into towns if they would go back to those areas. Feeding was very expensive and if a big feeder stopped where did those deer go?
Mr. Lewis asked about the collaring project, was the information on the website.
Mr. Bieber stated J.G. Irving was putting together a website that was going to present the data for the Department and all of the cooperators.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VII. Public Comments and Questions
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated anyone that wanted a printed lawbook would be able to get a printed law book. There may come a time when someone had to print one from their computer and mail it. The current law book was on the internet and Emily MacCabe had created a landing page which had all the law books on it with quick reference guides and how to download the book. We had 80,000 books printed and reduced printing costs.
Mr. Webb stated we were moving to direct data entry through a web application and that had started during the controlled moose hunt. Eight moose had been tagged successfully. The start of bear season on youth day would be the beginning of the real roll out. We had an individual on contract that had gone around the state with help from other staff and individually trained every station in advance of bear season. We were up over 200 stations that had been trained. The application seemed to be working well. We did plan to have staff available to assist stations if they ran into problems. We would have real time information. We would be doing the same for tagging of furs, but had just started working on that. We hoped to have it ready for next year‚€™s season. Some stations elected not to participate. A list of active stations would be available on the website.
Katie Hansberry stated they had a useful experience working with Major Chris Cloutier. Some in MA and some that worked nationally on wildlife issues had been working with him in his role as Vice-Chair of the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact. MA was one of only two states that were still not part of the compact. He had been extremely helpful in his role as Vice-Chair attending meetings with legislators in MA. There was a bill that had been trying to be passed there for a number of legislative sessions. They had honored him and he accepted on behalf of the entire board of the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact on July 18, 2018. They had a nice ceremony at which they presented a humane law enforcement award to Major Cloutier and a member of the MA environmental police.
Chris Bartlett stated he wanted to thank the Council for hearing their request and to feel free to contact him if they had any questions.
Mrs. Theriault stated we would begin rulemaking for Chapter 4 next month. Chapter 4 was the hunting and trapping and falconry rules. About six months ago, we started a thorough review to bring everything up to speed and into consistency with our statutes. There were references to old statutes, we reformatted and split the rule into three different chapters. There would be a chapter for falconry, one for trapping and one for hunting. It had been an in-depth project with upwards of 50 staff members reviewing the documents.
Jeff Reardon stated their discussions on Henderson Pond mirrored the discussions they had internally with TU and discussion he suspected the Department had. It was a really hard choice. In his comments, one of his concerns was there wasn‚€™t any justification in the proposal for why it was Henderson instead of some other water body. He wished that information had been available for the public to comment on. It may have changed how the proposal was viewed. Similarly, there was not a stocking proposal and he didn‚€™t think any fish could go into Henderson until the Department went through public comment on a stocking proposal. One concern they had with the stocking proposal was the plan was to put Bald Mountain charr there. There was also the proposal that charr might go there from some other source. To his knowledge none of the other sources were in imminent danger. A good discussion about whether to mix these populations or not. He was firmly of the camp that they had been separated since the glaciers retreated and they had adapted to the waters they were in. Mixing Bald Mountain charr with Floods charr or Deboulie charr, he did not know that it would do harm but it might and it was better to be conservative.
Mr. Brautigam stated we were not geneticists but there was a good one at UMO. We would be relying on him to provide guidance should we decide that we wanted to bring in individuals from an outside population to create enough of a biomass to establish a population in whatever the donor water might be.
Jeff Reardon stated Cold Water Brook Pond really was a question of consistently making a decision about what was a pond and what was not. If it was not a pond for heritage reasons it should not be a pond for other reasons too. He knew there had been conversations about the potential for rebuilding the dam.
Gary Corson stated he shared Jeff‚€™s concern with the charr from another source. If you started mixing the populations, it was just another stocked water. We were not dealing with genetics we were dealing with stocking a heritage water. If we could save the Bald Mountain charr population that would be a much more difficult argument that we shouldn‚€™t put them in a heritage water because they‚€™re the best. Floods Pond for example, that was where most charr that we stocked came from. We were going to take charr from Bald Mountain and put them in Henderson and then take charr from Floods Pond and put them in Henderson. Why didn‚€™t we just move the charr from Bald Mountain right over to Floods. He guaranteed that the geneticist from UMO would not be happy if we suggested that because we were mixing those genetics. The heritage waters law was put into effect for that very reason, to stop stocking fish that didn‚€™t belong in those waters. The issue they had with the rulemaking vs. legislation, it was a major substantive rule if the Department wanted to stock a water they had to get permission from the Legislature. No one opposed it. The Department never liked the major substantive rule and he worked with Andrea to change to routine technical which moved it to the Advisory Council and the APA process. The problem was that no one had the authority to say we could stock it and keep it on the list. It did when it was major substantive. It created this problem. He did think there was probably something that could be worked out, even if it was just notifying the Committee. He wanted to comment on the ‚€œconspiracy theory‚€. He did not think there was a conspiracy theory, he thought there was a concern that we might be weakening the law. There were a lot of people that were concerned. There were four proposals to remove heritage waters from the packet and most people supported all except Henderson. When it came to Henderson it was the best of the best, our heritage waters were the best of the best for a reason. We didn‚€™t allow any stocking there and we didn‚€™t allow live fish as bait. It was all dealing with competing species. When the Department stated that charr and brook trout coexisted they did in some places. He thought if the Henderson Pond proposal went to the Legislature, it would not pass because we were putting non-indigenous fish in there.
Brian Cogill stated he understood that DOT state roads were being trapped for problem beaver by federal staff. Why were they not using ADC agents across the state that the Department gave them licenses to do? Why were they using federal people to trap beaver? He knew someone that worked for DOT in southern Maine and there were two places they were told they couldn‚€™t use ADC agents they had to use the federal guys.
Commissioner Woodcock stated he felt it probably had something to do with federal funding, but we would look into it.
VIII. Agenda Items and Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The next meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, September 18th at 9:30 a.m. at IFW Augusta
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mr. Smith to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 12:00 p.m.