At the Downeast Lobstermen Association’s annual meeting, held in Ellsworth on Thursday, September 12, two officials from the Maine Department of Marine Resources offered an update on legislation and other regulatory efforts of the past year .
DMR Deputy Commissioner Meredith Mendelson and DMR Advisor Sarah Cotnoir were the guests of DELA.
Mendelson shared updates on several regulatory issues, a few of which she called “controversial.” The first of these was an update on the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, the new lobster promotion group set to replace the Maine Lobster Promotion Council later this fall. The MLMC will oversee an annual budget of a little more than $2 million, to be spent on generic marketing and promotion of Maine lobster.
The plan will be paid for through fees on licenses for fishermen, dealers and processors. For example, the surcharge for 2014 will be $160.75, in 2015 $320.75 and in 2016-2018 the surcharge will be $480.75.
The collaborative has hired Jon Sauve, who put together the original marketing proposal and who has worked extensively on wild blueberry marketing, said Mendelson.
Each zone council will be asked to put forth three names for consideration for four seats representing harvester interests on MLMC’s board of directors.
A few of the DELA members present asked whether an accounting of how money is spent will be given to fishermen. “It’s our money, I want to see every dollar,” said one lobsterman.
Mendelson said a presentation would be given each year at the fishermen’s forum on how the MLMC has spent the money.
Mendelson also talked about the DMR’s efforts to put together a tiered license proposal to remove latent effort and help those fishermen in closed zones who have been on waiting lists to enter the fishery.
“We have no desire to do anything right now,” said Mendelson. “We’ll hold a broader series of meetings this winter.”
There was some discussion among the members that the issue should just come to the forefront. “This has been discussed to death,” said Terry Savage Sr. of Southwest Harbor. “If [DMR Commissioner] Pat [Keliher] has a plan in mind, let’s see it.”
Cotnoir disagreed with Savage’s take. “If something’s not bulletproof, it’ll die in legislature,” she said.
Richard Alley of Addison said the license issue should be handled by the zone councils. “Let the zone councils do what they’re supposed to do,” he said.
There was also a brief discussion about the increased trap limit for Swan’s Island from 475 to 550. Clay Savage, a fisherman on Swan’s Island, said there would likely be attempts to increase the trap limit from 550 to 600.
Savage also discussed the latent license and trap tag issue. “I know there are some people out there, right on the island, not using their licenses but not giving them up,” said Savage. “And there are people who have been on the [waiting] list for more than 10 years who can’t get their license.”
Cotnoir also said that this fall, efforts would be underway to update fishery management plans for lobster, rockweed and urchin fisheries.
In other DELA business, the board re-elected Hilton Turner as president, Nick Lemieux as vice president, Sheila Dassatt as executive director and Mike Dassatt as treasurer and secretary.
DELA members approved the first membership rate increase in “four or five years,” said Sheila Dassatt in a follow-up interview. Membership rates for a lobsterman increased from $80 per year to $100 per year.
Mike Dassatt reported that there had been an increase in the last two months for membership. Once annual renewals finish coming in, he expects membership to be around 325, which is where it has been the past few years.
For more information about DELA, visit downeastlobstermen.org.