ELLSWORTH — The Blue Hill Bay sea urchin experimental management area will become an active limited access area for this upcoming sea urchin fishing year.
The Department of Marine Resources has scheduled a meeting next Wednesday, Aug. 9, to demonstrate and distribute the electronic vessel tracking devices to all sea urchin harvesters intending to fish in the Blue Hill Bay limited access experiment area. The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Ellsworth City Hall.
The limited access area includes all of Blue Hill Bay north of a line starting at the tip of Lopaus Point on Mount Desert Island and extending to the northernmost point of Black Island, on to the northernmost tip of Swans Island Head and continuing to the southeastern tip of Naskeag Point in Brooklin.
Harvesters intending to fish for sea urchins in this zone will be required to have a global positioning system (GPS) tracking device installed on their vessel in order to enter this zone. The DMR will provide the units, which must be turned on and continuously recording the vessel’s track for the entire duration of the urchin harvest season chosen by the harvester.
In the Blue Hill Bay area, the DMR has adopted a 45-day season from which harvesters may choose up to 38 days to fish.
The most valuable data collection for DMR scientists will come from harvesters entering the limited access area more or less frequently. The first year of the experiment (in 2017 and 2018) will focus solely on data describing the behavior of the fishery.
Over the next four fishing years, the DMR will close different ledges or reefs to determine how zero fishing effort affects the recruitment of sea urchins.
The DMR plans to hold annual meetings with industry participants to help decide where the experimental closures will occur. If there isn’t enough tracking data collected in the coming fishing year to provide the information DMR needs, a second year of tracking for data collection may be required.