Most Cobscook Bay area scallop fishermen appear to oppose rotating closures for the Cobscook Bay and St. Croix River zone and are favoring the Department of Marine Resources' (DMR) second option for the zone, with a shorter season, lower daily catch limit and limited access area for Whiting and Dennys bays. At a meeting on September 25 in Pembroke, at least two-thirds of the 14 Cobscook Bay fishermen who attended voted for option B, noting that concentrating all of the draggers in a small area under rotating closures would do so much damage to the resource that it would take years for scallops to recover.
The fishermen also favored opening the St. Croix River closure this season and moving fishing days from the end of January and early February to the first three weeks of March.
During the DMR's hearing on the proposed rules on October 1 in Machias, fishermen from the Bucks Harbor and Jonesport areas opposed the closing of areas, a statewide meat count and other measures, while others supported a meat count and Cobscook Bay area fishermen reiterated their opposition to rotational closures for that area. About 80 fishermen attended the hearing.
Bill Anderson of Trescott said he supports a meat count in order to end the shucking of small scallops and favors option B for the Cobscook Bay area, since, if all of the fishing effort is placed in a smaller area, he doubted that the stocks would last very long. Others supporting option B included Tracy Sawtelle of Lubec, who also argued that the days open for scallop and urchin fishing should be different, so that fishermen could use both licenses.
Togue Brawn, who formerly worked for the DMR on scallop management and now has her own scallop business, maintained that Maine fishermen should be landing at least 600,000 pounds annually, instead of less than 200,000, if the resource was well managed. She favored the statewide meat count, noting that fishermen "are shucking small scallops, particularly at the end of the season." Noting that the 4" minimum shell size cannot be enforced, she said fishermen "have to stop the shucking of undersized scallops. They're stealing from you and everyone else." She also favored a conservative trigger mechanism to stop fishing in a limited access area. Tom Pottle of Perry said he supported having the closure of limited access areas based on the daily landings instead of a trigger mechanism based on harvesting no more than 30% to 40% of the biomass.
Those opposing a statewide meat count included Billy Moore of Bucks Harbor, who said that in the area from the Lubec bridge to Roque Island fishermen find large scallops with smaller meats, so they wouldn't be able to comply with the meat count requirement. He also urged that any meat count test be based on a random sample instead of selecting the small scallops in the catch.
Another Bucks Harbor fisherman, Edmund Bridges, also opposed a statewide meat count, saying that "very little small stuff comes up in my drag." He felt there are no areas around Bucks Harbor to drag now and said if the boats are all placed on a small area they would devastate the resource. He favored shortening the season instead of closing areas.
Farrell Beal of Beals supported allowing fishermen to fish the areas that have been closed, which would take the pressure off areas that have been open. Noting that fishermen could only fish one day a week during December in limited access areas such as Blue Hill Bay, Gouldsboro Bay and Moosabec Reach, Rocky Alley of Jonesport asked, "What do we do, drag one day a week? You've got it all closed."
Lanny Wood of Bucks Harbor argued that the state has not allowed enough time for the 4" ring size for drags to work. However, the minimum shell size was increased to 4" eight years ago, in 2004. Wood also maintained that rotational management "promotes gang-raping areas until they're devastated." Noting that the scallop and urchin seasons are only 100 days total, with many days overlapping, he said he could use his boat to fish only a quarter of the year. "That's an expensive play toy," he said. "You're making it into a recreational fishery. That's all I do is fish."
Steve Patryn of Jonesboro also argued that the state was not giving enough time for the 4" ring size to help rebuild the resource and that so much bottom was being closed that fishermen had "nowhere to go." With higher fuel prices, he said fishermen need to catch 200 pounds a day on the outside shore to make any money. "We have sacrificed and sacrificed," he said. "Every time we come to a meeting, we feel like we're being pulled under. Can you make a living in 45 days? There's no way."
The DMR Advisory Council is expected to vote on the proposed rules, including one of the options for the Cobscook Bay zone, on November 8.