Vol. 11, No. 5 – May 2006    News & Comment for and by the Fishermen of Maine          SUBSCRIBE NOW!!
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Lobstermen’s Town Meeting
by Mike Crowe

Lobstermen from New England and Canada spoke out to scientists and regulators at the Lobstermen’s Town Meeting in Portland, Maine on April 7, 2006. At this third meeting, the group discussed topics ranging from the loss of traditional fisheries to water quality.

Unlike many fisheries meetings where the regulators talk to the fishermen, at the Lobstermen’s Town Meeting, the fishermen give the scientists and regulators their perspectives. It is their day to speak out.

The Lobster Institute organized the first Lobstermen’s Town Meeting in 2000 to create a place for US and Canadian lobstermen to bring forth their concerns and ideas. Scientists and managers from both countries attend the meetings. The Lobster Institute, established in 1987 is a nonprofit research organization associated with the University of Maine at Orono. After industry groups, which had been in touch with scientists at the university, expressed an interest in being more organized the Institute was formed.
Representatives on the Institutes board of advisors are from all the New England states, and the Canadian provinces with representation from all sectors. The Lobstermen’s Town Hall is sponsored by the Darden Restaurant Foundation. Darden’s owns Red Lobster, The Olive Garden and other restaurants. “It is an environmentally and socially conscious foundation,” said Bob Bayer, “that is looking ahead to protect the resource they depend on.”

According to Bayer, the objective in beginning these Town Hall meetings has been to be a clearing house for ideas.

The most common concern was the threat of water quality on the long-term health of their fisheries. Water quality has also been a common topic at past Town Meetings.

Supporting the need for that concern to be addressed were Connecticut lobster fishermen Nick Crismale and Bart Manzi. Both have been campaigning to shed light on the threats to lobster habitat from external environmental sources. Their fishery in western Long Island Sound, New York, totally collapsed in 1999. External environmental impacts caused that collapse. These impacts, which had developed over years, were pushed to the critical point by external events in the days and weeks before the catastrophic collapse.

The western Long Island Sound collapse set off alarms, but water quality is seen as a much broader dilemma. It is described as a huge problem because of the momentum behind the forces that are responsible for causing it. The Long Island Sound case may have been the canary in the coal mine, but it is only one of many mines.

Top to bottom: “As soon as Kittery gets the (sewer) pipe your done.” —Jim Bartlett, Beverly, MA
“I don’t think the stock assessment areas are fairly defined.” —Nick Crismale, Guilford, CT
“If we had a log book with the data tomorrow, is there a system in place for science to integrate it into the assessment.”—Dana Rice, Birch Harbor, ME
“Casco Bay fishermen fear the data given to management will come back to bite them later.” —Steve Trane, Long Island, ME.
Photos: Fishermen's Voice

Master Of The Harbor
by Mike Brown

It is said that the harbormaster is an ancient and honorable title, one that is associated with tarry rigging, tall spars and commerce carried out across vast seas.

Well, tarry rigging is now plastic rope; tall spars are aluminum; and commerce carried out on the Maine coast is usually in 700-horsepower lobsterboats, driven by hoary-handed men in orange “oilskins” made of PVC coating and cataloged as rain gear. Gone are the days of real oilskins, mottled like rusty crease roads; that had to be really oiled to keep out the Maine coast’s brumal weather. And gone — almost — is the stiff Black Diamond gear made, it’s said, of old Canadian inner tubes.

Cap’n Ralph Curtis of Sandy Point was skipper of the tug Sequin and my boss when I deckhanded many years ago towing oil barges from Bucksport to Brewer. The Feyler Boys and Eddie Rich from Rockland made up the crew, with engineer Belmont Mercer. The Feyler’s and Eddie spent most of the pump-out time in a Bangor beer joint while Cap’n Ralph and Belmont told me stories of the old days on the Penobscot.


Belfast harbor summer 2005. The operating style of the harbor master has changed over the years. But they still have the job of maintaining an orderly port and harbor where the mix of vessels is diverse. Shorefront condos and aquaculture leases have replaced some of the former duties. Photo: Lynn Pussic


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