Vertical line ban attempt
BOSTON — A whale activist is asking a Massachusetts federal judge to ban lobstermen’s vertical lines in order to protect the endangered right whales.
Richard “Max” Strahan’s lawsuit against state and federal agencies went to trial in Boston earlier this month. Strahan wants the judge to declare the vertical buoy ropes, which are commonplace in the lobster industry, a violation of the Endangered Species Act.
Strahan also tried to intervene in the federal right whale case that has the attention of lobstermen up and down the coast. In that case, several conservation agencies sued the federal government, but Strahan is arguing that neither the government nor the conservation agencies would take strong enough measures to protect right whales.
Strahan’s attempt to intervene in that case was rejected by a judge in May, but he soon after made another attempt to step in. The latest motion has not yet been ruled on.
If a judge were to rule in Strahan’s favor in the Massachusetts case, it could send reverberations through the lobster industry in Maine. Vertical ropes are a staple in the industry and fishermen have said that ropeless technology isn’t currently feasible for the fishery.
DMR public hearing
AUGUSTA — The state Department of Marine Resources is holding a public hearing next month to talk about a proposal to change the confidentiality of fisheries statistics.
The proposed rule would clarify that any statistics collected by DMR from a dealer, harvester, business, person or vessel as a result of compliance with reporting requirements would be confidential. An agreement with a dealer, harvester, business, person or vessel to participate in a department-led project to develop or test new methodologies or technologies for fisheries statistics would also be considered confidential, according to an announcement about the proposal from DMR.
A remote hearing on the rule is scheduled for July 7 at 4 p.m. and a link is on the DMR’s website.
People can comment on the proposal through July 19.
Commercial fishermen mask update
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Coast Guard has updated its guidance and will now allow commercial fishermen who are fully vaccinated to not wear masks while outside on a commercial fishing vessel.
Prior guidance lumped fishing vessels with public transportation vessels. With the relaxing of other regulations, several lawmakers, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) and Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) pushed for the guidance for fishermen to change as well.
The Coast Guard announced on June 11 that it would no longer enforce the mask mandate for outdoor areas of commercial vessels and maritime transportation hubs.
Transportation operators must still require people to wear masks when they are boarding, disembarking and for the duration of the trip, unless they are in an outdoor area. Transportation hubs must also still require masks for those indoors.
Pogie season starts
BAR HARBOR — The pogie season has started. Officially known as menhaden, the state-allocated fishery opened on June 14, with harvest days on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The weekly vessel limit is 23,800 pounds.
In 2020, pogies made up 1 percent of Maine’s commercial landings by value, but the fish have been growing in popularity over the years with lobstermen, who have started using the fish more regularly as bait due to cuts to the Atlantic herring quota.
Pogies live in the estuaries and coastal waters of the East Coast, from Nova Scotia to northern Florida, and are believed to be a single population.
In 2019, Maine fishermen landed nearly 25 million pounds of pogies for a value of $6.7 million.