Vol. 10, No. 5  May 2005    News & Comment for and by the Fishermen of Maine          SUBSCRIBE NOW!!
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Sinking Groundline Sunk At NMFS Meeting?
by Laurie Schreiber

Lobster fishermen have to be able to use groundline that will float above Maine’s rocky bottom, or the industry will go under.

That was the overwhelming consensus of over 200 fishermen who packed hearings early April on the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) proposed alternatives to modify the federal Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP).

Over 100 lobstermen turned out in Ellsworth on April 4, about 60 lobstermen from Steuben to Whiting turned out in East Machias April 6, and some 50 lobstermen from southern Maine attended a hearing April 7, in Portland. Statewide, fishermen favored Alternative 1, the status quo, which already contains a number of requirements. Each vertical line (rope between buoy on top of the water and trap on bottom) must have a weak link that lets go at 600 pounds of pressure and must be marked with a 4-inch colored tracer midway between the surface and ocean bottom. No single traps are allowed, and trawls with fewer than six traps can have only one buoy line. Fishermen are subject to the Dynamic Area Management (DAM) program which, when triggered, says all gear must be removed from an area where whales have congregated.

The consensus was that the use of sinking groundline, proposed to be implemented in four of six alternatives by 2008, would sink the lobster fishery, due to rocky habitat. Sinking groundline, they said, would hopelessly snag, chafe, part and snarl, creating a nightmare underwater landscape of massive amounts of ghost traps and rope and making it impossible for fishermen to effectively use their gear.

The economic and social costs of forcing Maine’s industry out of business would be devastating to the state, they said.

On top of it all, they said, there is no reason to require inshore fishermen to use sinking line because the endangered right whale rarely feeds inshore and it’s doubtful they feed along the rocky bottom.


Clockwise from top left: "No one wants to kill a whale. But with this rocky habitat, you’d put most of us out of business. You’d create a lot of ghost gear and a huge expense. You’d make us an endangered species.” — Jon Carter, lobsterman Bar Harbor

“For us, the cost to change things around is a real serious burden. As it is, we’re losing jobs overseas. Sooner or later, the federal government has got to start looking out for its own working people.” — John ‘Ted’ Bear, lobstermen, Harpswell

DMR liason, Terry Stockwell, reading comments from DMR Commissioner George Lapointe, at the whale hearing in Ellsworth.

“If you put us out of business, what happens to the boatbuilder, what happens to the engine builder, the machine shop, the supermarket?” — Jason Joyce, Swans Island

Sharks: Basking Or Loan
by Mike Crowe

The Gulf of Maine is not thought of as shark territory, but the second largest shark in the world spends the summer here. While most sharks prefer warmer water, there are 21 varieties that like the Gulf as much as the giant basking shark. The sharks caught commercially in the Gulf are the small dogfish varieties for the most part. But others out there include the large great white shark and the very small Chain Dogfish at about 20 inches.

The word shark, for a lot of people, brings to mind a huge gapping mouth filled with large sharp teeth, powerful jaws and a big eyeball that even on a page seems to be looking right at you. Photographic images of a person’s upper body with a semi-circular ring of scars or a limb that ends at a knee or elbow are common and real enough to the victims.


The teeth in this 10-foot wide reconstructed jaw belonged to an 80-foot long giant shark that inhabited the western Atlantic Ocean. It was the ancestor to the great white shark of Hollywood fame. The teeth were found in phosphate beds along the Coosaw River, South Carolina. These sharks are believed to have lived 5 to 23 million years ago. Photo Pratt Museum of Natural History. Amherst College


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