The question of whether the
state should financially support lobster hatcheries and
the recording of a significant decline in the number of
commercial fisheries licenses in the Cobscook Bay area were
among the topics discussed at the eighth annual Cobscook
Fisheries Forum, held February 11 at the Boat School in
Following presentations on
the lobster hatcheries in Stonington and at the Downeast
Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education in Beals,
John Drouin of Cutler, chairman of the Zone A Lobster Council,
stated that the Zone A council wants to look into supporting
the hatcheries through the use of Lobster Fund monies. The
monies are from lobster license fees, and he understands
that each zone council has a voice in how its money is used.
Noting that state law says the fund can be used to assist
hatcheries, he commented, "It won't replenish the fishery,
but we feel it would be spending the money wisely."
Marine Resources Commissioner
George Lapointe commented, "We have to determine the
efficacy of the program C is it worthwhile? Until we determine
that, we shouldn't go whole hog into it." Noting that
efforts to restock rivers by releasing hundreds of millions
of salmon from hatcheries have "not done much,"
he commented, "I am skeptical. We should find out if
it really works." He quoted a cost of between $40 and
$60 to grow a lobster to legal size. "We need to look
critically at the numbers that go into the hatcheries."
Brian Beal, professor of marine
ecology at the University of Maine at Machias, said a 1999
report by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) was not
based on current information and used a European model for
growing lobsters. He said the production capacity of the
Downeast Institute hatchery "is enormous."
Bob Peacock of R.J. Peacock
Canning in Lubec commented, "I feel the DMR has a bias
against hatcheries." He noted that the sea urchin hatchery
at Peacock Canning did not seek any state funding for that
reason. "The same thing that happened to urchins can
happen to lobsters," he said, referring to the depletion
of the resource. "We should be prepared."
Will Hopkins of the Cobscook
Bay Resource Center suggested that the hatcheries and the
Zone A council find funding other than through the state,
and Lapointe commented, "We wouldn't raise a barrier
to that." All of the fishermen present indicated that
they would support in helping find funding to look at whether
lobster hatcheries will work.
Efforts to grow lobsters at
the Downeast Institute were reviewed by Beal. Results of
a study from a nearly year-long study showed a nearly 75%
survival rate for lobsters raised in petri dishes and a
91.7% survival rate for ones in petri dishes with larger
holes. He noted that the lobsters doubled in size in one
year. Along with trying to improve the growth rates, Beal
commented, "We want to produce them very cheaply."
The Zone C lobster hatchery
in Stonington aims to restock areas that have recently become
depleted. A presentation by Ted Ames and Robin Alden noted
that the hatchery is expected to produce 150,000 juveniles
per year for Zone C fishermen, and fishermen will help identify
areas where they feel lobsters are needed.
Decrease in licenses
A report by the resource center
showed a 9.3% decrease in the number of licenses sold to
Cobscook Bay fishermen from 2004 to 2005 and a 28% decrease
in the number of people buying licenses. The number of licenses
dropped from 771 to 699, and the number of individuals decreased
from 440 to 318.
The decreases in license sales
were most pronounced, in terms of total number of licenses
sold, for commercial shellfish, with a 18.4% decrease to
120 licenses, commercial fishing, with a 12.9% decrease
to 203, and lobster/crab, with a 8.1% decrease to 158. The
only license that increased in the number of sales was for
marine worms, with 9 sold.
A comment was made that the
decrease may reflect a drop in people who were buying licenses
that were not being used. "It may be more an indicator
of loss of hope rather than a loss of effort," noted
A report on red tide and phytoplankton
blooms noted that, in 2005, 69 days for shellfish harvesting
were lost to red-tide closures and 50 days to flood closures.
In 2004, 77 days were lost to red tide and 20 days to flood
closures. Reasons for the increase in red-tide closures
include the following: bad spring storms bring the toxic
phytoplankton Alexandrium in from offshore; cysts are left
over in the inshore areas from the previous fall's blooms;
and more freshwater has been entering the Gulf of Maine
in the past two years than during the 10 previous years.
Brian Beal commented that
if those many days were lost by a corn farmer, the federal
government would be assisting in any way it could. "It
really bothers me that clammers don't have the same foothold."
State Senator Kevin Raye of
Perry commented that U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe had tried
to secure funding for the clam diggers and that the request
was proceeding well until Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf
Coast, and federal aid "got sucked into that maelstrom."
Will Hopkins commented that
it appears as though the area will be experiencing more
toxic blooms in the future, and perhaps a coalition of those
people who are affected is needed to gain federal support.
Two Maine legislative bills
are being considered to add staff for water-quality monitoring,
which would help shorten red-tide closures. Raye reported
that the Marine Resources Committee is supporting the addition
of seven more personnel for testing. He also noted that
a legislative hearing on a bill he is sponsoring to provide
funding for the Boat School in Eastport will likely be held
Harry Shain, chairman of the
Cobscook Bay Fishermen's Association, reviewed issues considered
during the year, including the scallop meat count, changes
to the federal herring management plan and a lobster/urchin
gear conflict. This past fall some lobstermen lost traps
because of urchin dragging, particularly in the Lubec Narrows.
A letter was sent to DMR Commissioner Lapointe asking that
he consider the gear conflict when establishing the urchin
season dates for next year.
Lapointe noted that the DMR
did not plan on changing the number of days for the urchin
season next year, but the season dates will be discussed
following the Maine Fishermen's Forum in March.
Shain noted that the association
has nominated Butch Harris for a position on the DMR Advisory
Council, since David Turner's term is ending.
The association has held several
meetings concerning the LNG proposals for Passamaquoddy
Bay. Shain noted, "We've already lost members from
the association, who are divided over this issue. We've
struggled with whether the association should support any
one of the three plans over any of the others, whether we
should support any LNG proposal at all, or whether we should
oppose very LNG proposal." He said the association
believes it does not have enough information to support
one proposal over another. "Until we know the actual
security plans to be implemented by the Coast Guard, we
don't know how any of these plans will affect our ability
to move freely on the water."
Kevin Athearn, an assistant
professor at UMM, reviewed a Cobscook scallop market study,
which revealed about 155,000 pounds were harvested from
Cobscook Bay during the 2004-05 season, with an ex-vessel
value of about $1 million. Suggestions for obtaining a better
price included forming a cooperative, seeking out niche
markets, setting quality standards, labeling, promoting
the product and value-added processing.
Will Hopkins reviewed the
efforts to establish a marketing cooperative for scallops
in the building now owned by the Cobscook Bay Resource Center
at the head of the Eastport breakwater. The coop could help
increase the value of the scallops by freezing and holding
them until the price increased. He also spoke about developing
a community kitchen in the building, to be used for crabmeat
picking or other needs.
The fishermen's association
has discussed waterfront access points around the bay that
might be at risk of being lost. Those include: Globe Cove
in Lubec, Horse Landing Road in Perry, points off the North
Lubec Road, and Loring Cove in Perry. Hopkins reported on
a survey of access points in Cobscook Bay, and over 50 were
identified in Eastport alone. The data will be used on digital
maps and provided to town officials. He noted, "Preserving
waterfront access isn't only about legal access; it's also
about maintaining the physical facilities without which
we would lose access to the water." He commented on
the need for rebuilding of the breakwater and observed that
work on that effort should begin now. A brochure about the
working waterfront in Washington County is planned by the
Washington County Council of Governments, if funding is
Other presentations concerned
Didemnum, a non-native, invasive tunicate, or sea squirt,
that was found in Cobscook Bay in August 2006 by Larry Harris
of the University of New Hampshire. The species can take
over the bottom and affect the scallop resource. A report
on the Cobscook Bay drift study research project showed
the flow of barrel drifters into Cobscook Bay on the flood