Tag Archives: Maine Department of Marine Resources

Inside the Multi-million-Dollar World of Eel Trafficking

The alleged kingpin of one of the biggest domestic wildlife smuggling operations ever to hit the East Coast is exactly where you’d expect to find him on a rainy evening in early May: firmly planted in a swivel chair at a big green metal desk inside his renovated Quonset hut on Foster Street, in Ellsworth, Maine. At this post Bill Sheldon waits day and night for fishermen to come and fill his bowl with writhing masses of baby eels. The 72-year-old fisherman wears glasses, a blue flannel shirt, jeans, duck boots, and a brown L.L. Bean baseball cap. His cell phone goes quack, quack, quack when it rings. The sign above his head reads, “Buying Glass Eels Here,” with the day’s market price: $1,250 per pound. (so much more about the fishery in this article than “trafficking”) click here to read the story 09:26

Maine Lobstermen Say They Aren’t Harming Threatened Coral Beds

The fragile deep-sea corals that populate the canyon walls and basins in the Gulf of Maine provide habitat for many species of fish as well as baby lobster, crabs and squid. But the New England Fisheries Management Council has concluded that the northeast coral beds are threatened when they are disturbed by commercial fishing operations and is weighing new restrictions that could affect Maine.  The council held a public hearing in Ellsworth Thursday night, where lobstermen spoke in support of a plan that protects coral colonies while still allowing them to haul their traps.  Most of the lobstermen who spoke agree that the coral beds in the Gulf of Maine play an important role in the overall health of the marine ecosystem. And most, such as Cranberry Isles fisherman Jack Merrill, think that Maine lobstermen and the coral beds have been getting along well for decades. Click here to read the story 18:21

Maine lobstermen worry about possible closure to protect coral

Charles Kelley began fishing for lobster on Outer Schoodic Ridge about 20 years ago, preferring the solitude of deep waters to the crowded inshore fishery.,, Kelley is worried that he could lose his winter fishing territory if interstate regulators decide to ban all fishing in a 31-square-mile area at the ridge and an 18-square-mile area southwest of Mount Desert Rock to protect deep-water coral gardens found in those waters.,,, Some environmental groups have banded together to oppose the lobster exemption, among other aspects of the proposal, including the Conservation Law Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana and The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Heavy offshore trap gear … poses a threat to long-lived and vulnerable deep-sea coral communities,” they wrote in an April 11 letter. “Trap fisheries directly damage corals.” Click here to read the story 07:58

Massachusetts man nabbed with $21,700 worth of illegal allegedly poached elvers

A Massachusetts man faces up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine after he was caught with an estimated $21,700 worth of allegedly poached elvers, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Joseph Starratt, 51, of Middleborough, Massachusetts, was arrested Friday and charged with possession of elvers, also known as baby or “glass” eels, without a license. The charge is a Class D misdemeanor crime, which is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of $2,000. Marine Patrol officers, following up on a lead submitted through the Operation Game Thief tip line, located Starratt in Scarborough with 16.5 pounds of elvers and without any license to harvest them. Starratt was arrested and taken to Cumberland County Jail. Each pound contains about 2,500 elvers, click here to read the story 20:55

Maine lawmakers endorse tougher penalties for lobstermen who cheat

A legislative committee voted unanimously Wednesday to toughen penalties on lobstermen who fish too many traps or use “sunken trawls” as part of an industry-supported effort to crack down on lawbreakers. “I do think this is going to get people’s attention and will hopefully make people realize that it doesn’t pay to cheat,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. Lawmakers are considering a suite of requests from the Maine Department of Marine Resources for more enforcement tools and tougher sanctions against violators in an industry worth more than $500 million last year. A bill unanimously endorsed by the Marine Resources Committee, L.D. 575, would allow DMR’s commissioner to order longer license suspensions for lobstermen who violate the laws on the first offense and, in several cases, permanently revoke the licenses of repeat offenders. click here to read the story 19:49

Maine Lobstermen tired of conflicts, support bill to allow secretly installed tracking devices

Lobstermen fed up with cohorts who violate fishing regulations testified in favor of a bill to allow Marine Patrol officers to secretly install tracking devices on fishing vessels suspected of illegal activity without first obtaining a warrant. While a smaller faction opposed the bill, both sides agreed that Maine faces a growing “epidemic” posed by a small number of law-breakers fueling dangerous conflict and threatening the stewardship ethos within the state’s most valuable fishery. They also agreed that the Maine Department of Marine Resources needed more enforcement tools, but lobstermen differed on whether DMR’s commissioner should be allowed to authorize the installation of GPS tracking devices without getting a judge’s approval. click here to read the story 08:36

Wake Up, Fishermen! Proposed closure of coral grounds in Gulf of Maine has lobster industry on edge

Over the past 10 years, the issue of how to protect endangered whales from getting tangled in fishing gear has been a driving factor in how lobstermen configure their gear and how much money they have to spend to comply with regulations. Now federal officials have cited the need to protect deep-sea corals in a proposal to close some areas to fishing — a proposal that, according to lobstermen, could pose a serious threat to how they ply their trade. “The [potential] financial impact is huge,” Jim Dow, a Bass Harbor lobsterman and board member with Maine Lobstermen’s Association, said Wednesday. “You’re talking a lot of the coast that is going to be affected by it.” The discovery in 2014 of deep-sea corals in the gulf, near Mount Desert Rock and along the Outer Schoodic Ridges, has prompted the New England Fisheries Management Council to consider making those area off-limits to fishing vessels in order to protect the coral from damage. According to Maine Department of Marine Resources, fishermen from at least 15 harbors in Hancock and Washington counties could be affected by the proposed closure. click here to read the story  Wake Up, Fishermen! 11:15:30

2016 proves a record year for Maine’s fishing industry

Maine’s fishing industry topped $700 million in overall value in 2016, including a dockside value for the lobster fishery of $533 million. Both were records, according to preliminary data released Friday by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. DMR reported the $721 million total value represented a nearly $100 million increase over 2015. For the second straight year, the largest single increase in value was in Maine’s lobster fishery. The fishery saw the overall landed value jump by more than $30 million — from $501 million in 2015 to $533 million in 2016 — while the average per pound value remained over $4 for the second year in a row, at $4.07. When factoring in bonuses paid to harvesters as reported by 14 of Maine’s 19 lobster co-ops, the overall landed value of Maine’s lobster fishery reached $547.24 million, DMR reported. continue reading the story here 11:09

Maine lobstermen oppose increase in cost of commercial fishing licenses

A proposal to increase the cost of commercial fishing licenses to fund scientific research in a lean budget year is drawing fire from Maine lobstermen. Julie Eaton, a 30-year lobster boat captain from Deer Isle, told a legislative panel at the State House on Friday that a 30 percent increase in lobster license fees would be too much on top of all the other costs of doing business, ranging from $125 to replace lost traps to $185 for monthly oil changes to bait bills that have doubled in the last year alone. The Maine Department of Marine Resources is seeking to increase lobster license fees about 30 percent, which would generate roughly $600,000 in new revenues. That money would be used to expand state lobster research and protect other department units, like the Maine Marine Patrol, despite budget cuts ordered by Gov. Paul LePage to offset the anticipated effect of a new minimum wage law and state school spending initiative. Continue reading the article here 09:24

Proposed Maine Elver Eel Lottery Would Keep Industry Viable

A proposal to create a new lottery system to allow people into Maine’s big-money baby eel fishery is the best way to keep the industry sustainable, some fishermen say. Baby eels are a prized resource in Maine, where they are fished from rivers and streams and sold to Asian aquaculture companies in countries such as China and South Korea. The baby eels, or elvers, can sell for more than $2,000 per pound. The eels eventually get raised to adulthood and turned into food, such as sushi, with some spanning the globe to come back to American restaurants. Right now, entry into the fishery is closed. A Maine trade group for elver fishermen is supporting a proposed state law that would allot new elver fishing permits via a lottery. The group’s president, Darrell Young, said members of the fishery are aging and the lottery system will let new people in. “We’re all getting older and eventually we’re going to pass away,” Young said. “As people die off or give up or whatever, there will be a drawing.” Read the story here 14:36

Maine Department of Marine Resources wants to raise the price of commercial fishing licenses

If approved by the Legislature, the proposed fee increases would range from as little as $1 for a Maine resident to harvest green crabs to as much as $114 for a lobsterman with two sternmen. Under the new fee schedule, which would take effect January 2018, the cost of securing a Class III lobster license would top $1,000 for the first time, hitting $1,002. The fee hike would enable the Department of Marine Resources to hire an additional lobster biologist, outfit its science staff with field technology and pay for Marine Patrol officer raises and ballistics vests, among other things, without increasing the department’s $21.3 million bottom line, department spokesman Jeff Nichols said. Read the story here 08:36

Participants in cooperative winter sampling program for Gulf of Maine northern shrimp announced

The program, coordinated by the Maine Department of Marine Resources, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, is designed to provide biological data on the shrimp fishery which is closed for the fourth year in a row. These Maine fishermen were chosen from over 60 applicants based on a random drawing of those fully qualified in each region. Preference was given to trawlers willing to participate in a test of a compound grate for harvesting. The sampling program will include the participation of 10 trawlers (eight Maine trawlers, one Massachusetts trawler and one New Hampshire trawler) and five Maine trappers fishing for eight weeks from mid-January to mid-March.  Read the story here 08:15

Legislation being drafted to make it easier for Maine Marine Patrol officers to secretly install tracking devices on fishing boats.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources is drafting legislation that would expand the authority of Marine Patrol officers to covertly install electronic surveillance devices on the boats of fishermen suspected of violating state fishing regulations. The proposal is similar to one that faltered in the Legislature two years ago and is a response to ongoing concerns that some lobstermen are fishing more traps than allowed or engaging in other tactics to skirt Maine’s strict fisheries laws. The proposal also coincides with high-profile turf wars or personal disputes between lobstermen last year that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost or damaged equipment. The language of the bill has not been released, and DMR officials declined to provide specifics until the legislation has been finalized, consistent with a LePage administration policy. But in a general outline, DMR spokesman Jeff Nichols said the proposal would ease restrictions on Marine Patrol officers when they want to install electronic tracking or surveillance equipment on boats as part of investigations. Read the story here 10:07

Maine Scallop fishermen stay close to home

Scallop divers might have been feeling optimistic, due to a steady increase in landings in recent years, when the fishery started for the winter season on Dec. 1. But the number of scallop draggers showing up in Cobscook Bay on their opening day, Dec. 5, seemed to indicate a certain pessimism. Trisha Cheney, the resource management coordinator for scallops for the Maine Department of Marine Resources told The Quoddy Tides that only 69 boats showed up for opening day. That’s about half the size of the fleet that has been in the bay at the start of the season during many years. Almost all of the boats were local Cobscook Bay boats. In the past, many draggers from ports to the west have traveled to Cobscook Bay to fish. This year, the fleet was apparently more spread out. Cheney told the paper that 76 draggers were fishing in the Jonesport area this year. Read the rest of the story here 14:03

Down East area reopened to shellfish harvesting as level of biotoxin fades

domoic-acid-massThe Maine Department of Marine Resources has given the all-clear for Down East shellfish harvesters, more than a month after closing the region to harvesting because of an unusual bloom of toxic algae. On Monday, the DMR announced it was reopening harvesting areas between Penobscot Bay and Machiasport for shellfish, including softshell clams and mussels. Areas farther east, between Machiasport and Calais, were reopened to harvesting Oct. 25. The entire Down East coast from east Penobscot Bay to the Canadian border was closed at the end of September. The closure was triggered after shellfish samples from Jonesport, Corea and Roque Bluffs tested positive for elevated levels of domoic acid, a biotoxin that can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning and lead to illness, brain damage and possibly death.  Read the story here 09:59

A proposal intended to curb costly trap wars prompts 2-tag plan for lobster traps

1106061_371405-20120621_lobstertag_A proposal intended to curb costly trap wars would require Maine lobstermen to put two tags on traps they set outside their licensed fishing territory. Right now, every trap that is set along Maine’s 3,500-mile coast must have at least one tag, which identifies the fisherman who owns it. That 50-cent tag is the primary enforcement tool the Maine Marine Patrol uses to make sure a lobsterman is hauling only his or her own traps. Under state rules, Maine lobstermen can set up to 49 percent of their traps outside of their home fishing zone. In two zones along the coast, where fishermen are competing hardest for prime ocean bottom, lobstermen are already required to put second tags on traps dropped outside their home zone. Now, the Maine Department of Marine Resources wants to extend double-tagging to all seven lobster zones to make it easier to catch lobstermen who are fishing too many traps outside their zone. Read the story here 07:35

Lobster Advisory Council votes to close Maine’s last open zone

1050646_806188-20160908_zone-c-closLocal fishing authorities in Maine’s busiest lobster region say newcomers must wait for someone else to give up their license before they can set traps in local waters. The lobster council that oversees the area that includes Stonington and Vinalhaven, the top two lobster ports in Maine, voted 6-1 Thursday night to close the state’s last open lobster zone. The state’s other six regions already require apprentices who complete their training to wait, sometimes for as long as a decade, for others in their area to give up their licenses before they can fish. It is now up to Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, to decide whether to implement the council’s vote, as well as adopt the council’s proposed one-in, one-out exit ratio. Read the story here 12:12

Bait Relief! Maine Pogy fishery reopens with strict new rules

1016188_285199-Feature_01Maine made bait fishermen and lobstermen happy Monday when it reopened its pogy fishery after concluding there is still enough menhaden left in the Gulf of Maine to keep the population healthy. Those who hunt for nearshore schools of the flat, oily-fleshed silver fish – the second most popular lobster bait in Maine after herring – must follow strict new rules to prevent unusual damage or imminent depletion of the Atlantic menhaden. If they limit their fishing days to three and their catch to no more than 120,000 pounds a week, Maine fishermen can use up the remaining 2.3 million-pound quota allotted to Maine, Rhode Island and New York during a so-called “episodic” fishing event, when pogies are deemed unusually plentiful in New England waters. Read the rest here 08:08

Herring bait shortage could pinch Maine Lobstermen

atlantic herringMaine regulators are considering intervening to help fix a bait shortage that threatens to affect its signature lobster fishing industry. Lobstermen typically use herring for bait, and regulators and members of the fishing industry say there’s a shortage of them. The shortage is happening at the time of year when lobster catches usually start to pick up — and just as New England’s high tourist season is arriving. The Maine Department of Marine Resources met Tuesday afternoon to discuss what role it can play. Meredith Mendelson, the deputy commissioner of the department, told The Associated Press before the meeting that the department anticipates passing rules at a later date based on Tuesday’s discussion. The problem is that not enough herring are being caught on Georges Bank, a key fishing area off Massachusetts, members of the fishing industry said. That means there could be more herring fishing closer to the shore, and fishermen could reach their quota for that area before the summer is out. Read the story here 08:47

Mercury findings prompt state to widen lobster fishing ban in Penobscot River estuary

10-lobsters1Lobstermen never want to see an area closed, but they have supported the Penobscot River ban because they want to protect the long-term reputation of the product, said Patrice McCarron, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. Maine has expanded its ban on lobstering and crabbing in a small section of Penobscot Bay after finding elevated mercury levels in lobsters tested south of the existing no-fishing zone. The Maine Department of Marine Resources had declared seven square miles of the Penobscot River estuary off limits to lobstermen and crabbers in 2014 after a federal court-ordered study detected elevated mercury levels in lobsters found as far south as Fort Point on the west bank and Wilson Point on the east bank. On Tuesday, based on the results of state-funded tests done after the initial closure, the department announced it would add 5.5 square miles to the no-fishing zone, extending it south to Squaw Point on Cape Jellison and Perkins Point in Castine. Read the rest here 09:18

Maine Elver Harvesters Net Third Highest Overall Value in the History of the Fishery

elvers053015 016.JPGWith Maine’s 2016 elver season concluding yesterday at noon, the 982 harvesters who fished this season netted $13,388,040, which is the third highest value in the history of the fishery according to preliminary landings data from the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Maine DMR data indicates that the total was nearly $2 million more than was earned last season by the 920 active harvesters. While the average value this season was $1,435 per pound compared with $2,171 last season, it was the fourth highest on record. Preliminary landings data indicates that harvesters caught 9,330 pounds of the 9,688 total statewide quota compared with 5,259 pounds harvested last season. According to DMR data, 285 harvesters reached their individual quota in 2016 compared to 104 in 2015. Read the rest here 07:42

Maine finalizes deal to preserve Tenants Harbor Working Waterfront

DSC_2244.JPGThe Maine Department of Marine Resources obtained a working waterfront covenant March 11 on the wharf owned by the four Miller brothers — Hale, Ira, Dan and Peter — at 12 Commercial St. in Tenants Harbor. The covenant means that the pier must be used for commercial fishing. The wharf is used by more than 100 lobstermen, scallopers, urchin fishermen and seaweed harvesters. Over the years, landings have included shrimp and groundfish. In exchange for the working waterfront covenant, which ensures the wharf owners cannot develop or use the property for anything other than commercial working waterfront activities, the state will pay $250,000, an amount determined by a standardized working waterfront property appraisal, according to the news release. Read the article here 07:03

Maine Fishermen concerned about loss of disaster relief funding

AR-160319407.jpg&MaxW=315&MaxH=315The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced on March 1 that it will soon be issuing the third and final payment to Maine-homeported commercial groundfish permit holders under federal disaster relief funding which is being issued due to changes in fishing regulations and cutbacks in the industry. This is the third and final bin of money being allotted in Maine. Other New England states have also received federal relief funding in three separate dispersions, and although it is federal money, each state has individual discretion on how to allocate use of the funds. While some other states divided the money among permit holders and their crews, Maine chose a formula based criteria for fishermen in this category to qualify for relief funds. Read the rest here 16:07

Department of Marine Resources emergency action on Scallop area closures

mkMaine commercial fishing regulators are working on a string of closures to scalloping grounds around the state as the season nears its end. A spokesman for the state Department of Marine Resources says the agency is working on an emergency action that would close areas such as the Inner Machias Rotational Area, Wahoa/Jonesport Reach and Gouldsboro Bay and Dyers Bay. A handful of other areas would also close. Casco Bay would close to draggers, but not divers. The spokesman says the closures will likely be effective by Sunday. Link 07:58

Maine Department of Marine Resources will re-open three closed scallop fishing areas

mkThe Maine Department of Marine Resources will re-open three scallop fishing areas after having closed them to protect scallop populations in December. Inner Machias Rotational Area, Wahoa/Jonesport Reach, and Gouldsboro Bay and Dyers Bay will open next week when the Department of Marine Resources allows the emergency rulemaking to lapse. The Department of Marine Resources has instituted a new system for estimating scallop abundance. This new system showed that these three areas for scallop fishing had more available biomass than originally estimated in December. Read the rest here 12:49

Maine’s 2015 lobster catch value jumps by $37 million

The volume was down but the value was up for Maine’s 2015 total lobster haul, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The estimated cumulative gross income for the statewide lobster fishing fleet increased from $458 million in 2014 to $495 million last year – a jump of $37 million, according to a press release issued Thursday night by DMR. It is the sixth year in a row that the estimated dockside value of Maine’s annual lobster harvest has hit an all-time high. And for the first time since 2007 — before the onset of the Great Recession — the average per-pound price that Maine fishermen were paid for their catch was more than $4. That average increased from $3.70 in 2014 to $4.09 in 2015, according to the release. Read the rest here 15:09

Maine Lobstermen divided on license proposals

lobster-license-bill-1067x800The legislature’s Marine Resources Committee heard six hours of testimony Feb. 10 on a bill proposing changes to the commercial lobster licensing system. Those offering testimony were split between support for and opposition to the bill, which will be taken up next in a work session of the committee. The language was drafted by Department of Marine Resources (DMR) staff, but the bill officially was sponsored by Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle). Sen. Brian Langley (R-Hancock County) was one of several cosponsors. Read the rest here 13:26

Maine shrimp – get ’em while they’re hot!

Thanks to a study being conducted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, four trawlers and two trappers have been selected to collect samples of northern shrimp from the Gulf of Maine. Each participating trawler is required to conduct five research trips in one region, and is being compensated $500 per trip. Each would be allowed to sell up to 1,800 pounds of shrimp per trip. Good article! Read the article here 17:30

Lobster waiting list debate continues

The waters off Hancock and Washington County have been very productive for lobster fishermen in the last few years. And when business is good, more people want in. Here in the Maine Department of Marine Resources’ (DMR) Lobster Management Zone B, though, a strict limited entry system has resulted in a very long waiting list for new commercial lobster licenses. The current limited entry ratio in Zone B is one new license issued for every five licenses retired. Most of the people on the waiting list already are fishing for a living, but they don’t work for themselves. Read the article here 13:40

Lobstermen, DMR talk state of lobster fishing

lobsterDM0811_468x521“We realize a fairly large amount of people want to transfer from other zones, and we are looking into that,” Keliher replied. Lobsterman Steve Taylor, of Kittery, said “I’m sorry if this is going to offend people, but what about the people who are on the waiting list that already have a cushy job somewhere and just want to make extra money lobstering? That worries us. We depend on this for out living. Everything else in the industry has been taken away.” Read the rest here 17:46