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Stonington hosted race number 7 in the 2019 Maine Lobster Boat Racing circuit this past Sunday, with 109 boats showing up.
An unusual entry was Devin Bray’s Sarah Christina in Class C (Inboards, outboards or outdrives, 90 hp and over). That’s a recently launched 34 Libby from East Side Boat Shop with a single 430-hp 5.7-liter V-8 outboard mounted on the transom. It’s the only Libby lobster boat ever built with an outboard and probably the only lobster boat of that size powered by an outboard. The Sarah Christina took second to Caleb Norton’s White Lightnin’, an AJ28 with a 305-hp Cummins, which registered 39.3 mph at the finish line.
The fourth race of the day was the John’s Bay Boat Co. Race, an event that only takes place in Stonington. It features wooden lobster boats built by John’s Bay Boat Co. that fish out of the lobster capital of Maine. Five boats went to the line. The winner was Nathan Jones’ Sailor’s Way. Sailor’s Way’s 1,000-hp C18 Cat got her across the line at 27.6 mph.
Jeremy Beal’s Maria’s Nightmare, a Mussel Ridge 28 with a 2,500-hp Chevy, was the focus of attention a week earlier when she beat Cameron Crawford’s Wild Wild West at Moosabec Reach, but Maria’s Nightmare didn’t make it to Stonington, which meant that Wild Wild West, a West 28 with a 1,050-hp Isotta, took the Diesel Free For All at 53.6 mph and the last race of the day, the Fastest Lobster Boat Afloat, at 53.4 mph. Tom Clemons’ Motivation, a Northern Bay 36, with a 1,000-hp Cat was second in both races.
Among the prizes given out were four Nascar tickets from Maine Coastal News and a voucher for a round-trip airline ticket from Elite Airlines, which flies from Portland, Maine, to several locations in Florida. The rumor going around is that at the Winter Harbor lobster boat races, which will be on Aug. 10, a Mitchell Cove 35 hull will be one of the prizes.
The next race is July 7 in Friendship. After that, five races remain.
Offshore wind power developer Vineyard Wind may miss its late 2019 construction start, with a delay in the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s review of the project’s environmental impact statement.
The plan for 84 wind turbines off Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., was poised for a formal start to onshore construction activity in December 2019. But on Tuesday the company announced BOEM would not meet an anticipated July 12 milestone for approving the final EIS for the 800-megawatt project.
“We understand that, as the first commercial scale offshore wind project in the U.S., the Vineyard Wind project will undergo extraordinary review before receiving approvals,” the company said in revealing the delay. “As with any project of this scale and complexity, changes to the schedule are anticipated.”
BOEM and the company are under pressure from Massachusetts and Rhode Island fishermen who fear loss of access to fishing grounds, and dangers navigating turbine arrays. BOEM and Coast Guard officials last year put wind developers on notice that they will be required to plan for safe transit lanes through the wind towers.
Local conservation groups are raising question too, especially over the endangered northern right whales in southern New England waters. A few more than 400 of the right whale population survive, and those concerns are stoked again this summer with six dead animals so far found in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is a big booster of offshore wind development, and Vineyard Wind has obtained state permits and a power purchase agreement. But the plan hit a new bump this week when the Edgartown Conservation Commission on Martha’s Vineyard voted against granting a cable permit for Vineyard Wind.
The developers want to lay a pair of 400-megawatt transmission cables from the site 15 miles offshore to a landfall at Barnstable on Cape Cod, passing a mile off Chappaquiddick. Local fishermen raised concerns over what construction and any electromagnetic field effects might have on fish populations.
Representatives from the lobster industry have been working to expand the list of approved species, as the quotas for the industry-preferred Atlantic herring continue to be slashed year over year.
The Atlantic herring quota was just shy of 50,000 metric tons in 2018 after a stable average of 110,000 metric tons annually in the early 2000s. The 2019 quota was slashed by 70 percent to about 15,000 metric tons, resulting from poor recruitment. The next stock assessment is scheduled to be conducted in June 2020, but deeper cuts are already recommended for 2020-21.
“Maine is working diligently to meet our needs for lobster bait by expanding approved sources that are safe and will not cause damage to the ecosystem in the Gulf of Maine,” said Rep. Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington), who is also a lobsterman, hailing from the state’s lobster capital. “The approval of both menhaden from the Gulf of Mexico and blackbelly rosefish are a step forward in providing lobster with safe and affordable alternatives to Atlantic herring.”
The first truck of IQF Gulf of Mexico menhaden is expected to arrive in Stonington this week.
On June 28, the Department of Marine Resources added whole blackbelly rosefish to the list, which New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture will be working to supply from offshore Uruguay in South Atlantic waters. Maine’s DMR is requiring the fish to be kept frozen and tracked through a chain of custody to prevent pathogens and invasive species from being imported for use in the Gulf of Maine.
The drive to find new sources of baitfish that will work to lure lobsters to Maine pots has been a high priority for months leading up to the fleet’s peak summer and fall seasons.
“We’re very pleased by the collaborative approach Cooke and the state took to help deal with the challenges that the lobster fishery has been facing related to securing bait,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.
A 49-year-old man from Cordova remains missing after an explosion and fire aboard a barge rocked the port of Whittier, Alaska, just before midnight on July 8. Sources informing the Coast Guard reported a leaking propane tank aboard the barge, according to Manda Norcross, spokeswoman with the Coast Guard’s 17th District in Juneau.
The barge and the 99-foot F/V Alaganik both sank at the dock. Firefighters contained the blaze just before 3 a.m. While officials continue investigating the cause of the explosion and fire, the search for the missing person was suspended shortly after midnight on July 9. The Coast Guard could not confirm whether the missing person was working on the Alaganik.
“Originally, there was a report that there were two missing persons,” says Norcross. “But a later search found [one of them] on another boat, safe with his family.”
Norcross said a propane tank that had been leaking exploded aboard the barge exploded causing the fire, which spread to the Alaganik and nearby buildings and vehicles. On July 9, the Delong Dock remained closed, pending inspections to determine structural damage. There is a 1,000-yard safety zone around the area.
The fishing vessel and barge sank in 85 feet of water at the pier with a maximum of 5,500 gallons of fuel oil aboard. Norcross noted that sources reported there was no product onboard the Alaganik but could not confirm if the 99-footer was tendering salmon. The Alaganik’s owners have contracted Global Diving and Salvage for clean-up and salvage efforts.
According to Kelly Bender, who owns a charter business out of Whittier, the initial explosion occurred around 11:45 p.m. She says it appeared to happen on a boat tied to the dock used to off-load fish. She said people in the area with boats and pumps were called to help extinguish the fire. There was a voluntary evacuation order for nearby Whittier Manor.
Another witness, Ellen Dilley, evacuated, adding that the tunnel was open for those wanting to leave and for emergency crews coming into Whittier. The tunnel is the only road in and out of Whittier.
The city of Whittier said in a press release that the Anton Anderson Fire Response Team, Girdwood Fire Department and the Whittier Volunteer Fire Department responded to the fire. The State Fire Marshal was expected in Whittier early on Monday.
Delong Dock has been closed until damage is assessed and the investigation is complete.
One fisheries item that appears to have escaped Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto pen so far is his desire to divert local fish taxes from coastal communities into state coffers.
Dunleavy’s initial budget in February aimed to repeal the sharing of fisheries business and landing taxes that towns and boroughs split 50/50 with the state. Instead, all of the tax revenues would go to the state’s general fund – a loss of $28 million in FY 2020 to fishing communities.
“There is a recognition that these are viewed as shared resources, and they should be shared by Alaskans,” press secretary Matt Shuckerow said at the time. “So that’s kind of what this proposal does. It takes shared resources and shares them with all Alaskans, not just some select communities.”
The tax split remains in place, and the dollars are still destined for fishing towns, said Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak), who also represents Cordova, Yakutat and several smaller towns.
“It’s general fund revenue and that has been appropriated to the appropriate communities,” Stutes said in a phone interview. “What we can tell right now is it slipped by unscathed because it appears he did not veto that revenue to the communities that generate the dollars. So, it looks like we’re good to go there.”
What’s not so good is the nearly $1 million cut to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s commercial fisheries budget.
Stutes and Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak) worry the shortfall could result in lost harvests.
“It’s always short-sighted when you cut Fish and Game. It’s just really crucial that we have the personnel we need to manage our resources and to make sure they continue to be there when we need them,” Stevens told KMXT in Kodiak.
Stutes, who chairs the House fisheries committee, said it does not make sense to cut state moneymakers.
“In the long run, that creates revenue for the state because it allows all these different fisheries to stay open longer,” she said, adding that lost oversight because of budget cuts will result in more conservative management.
“If they do not have the personnel to do the appropriate salmon counts, they’re going to manage very conservatively. And that means less openings or they’ll close the season earlier,” Stutes said. “Those are dollars that the state’s not going to get by the governor vetoing those funds to Fish and Game. It just doesn’t make sense to me under any conditions.”
All the amendments the Alaska Legislature added back into the original ADF&G budget were vetoed, including a $280,000 cut to special areas management, which include 12 game refuges, 17 critical habitat areas and three wildlife sanctuaries. Two director-level positions and associated funding from the Habitat and Subsistence Research Divisions will be moved to the Office of Management and Budget and no longer be associated with ADF&G-related duties.
Effects of the budget cuts were not readily available, and all questions are referred to a new email@example.com address. The questions may be directed back to appropriate staff, but “they want everything to be through that address,” said one ADF&G employee.
“Welcome to our world,” said Stutes. “As a Legislature, we can’t get answers. We can’t speak to department heads. We get no response. We are required to go through the legislative liaison. I have never seen such a lack of communication between any department or between the Legislature and the executive branch.”
The so-called blue-green algae is not actually an algae, but cyanobacteria. Exposure can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
“It is advised that you use caution and do not take fish, crabs or shrimp from the areas affected by the bloom. Any marine life from the affected area should not be consumed even if it is cooked or frozen,” the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality said.
The sand portions of the beaches remain open, but beachgoers are advised to stay out of the water, and not eat fish or seafood from the affected areas. Seafood caught outside the algae-infected areas along the coast is believed to be safe.
Officials say they are conducting daily water sampling in the affected areas.
The New England Fishery Management Council will hold a series of meetings this summer as part of its mandatory review of the groundfish sector management system. These hearings will serve to gather public comments, which can also be submitted directly to the council in writing through Aug. 19 at 5 p.m.
The review focuses on the first six years of the catch share program under Amendment 16 to the FMP, from May 1, 2010, through April 30, 2016. Information prior to the program’s implementation will be included for the period of May 1, 2007, through April 30, 2010.
Each meeting runs from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
Ellsworth, Maine – July 18 at the Moore Community Center, 5 General Moore Way
Portland, Maine – July 19 at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, 350 Commercial Street
Hyannis, Mass. – July 23 at the Hyannis Youth and Community Center, 141 Bassett Lane
Plymouth, Mass. – July 24 at Plymouth Library, 132 South Street
Gloucester, Mass. – July 25 at Gloucester Library, 2 Dale Avenue
Portsmouth, N.H. – July 26 at Portsmouth High School, 50 Andrew Jarvis Drive
Riverhead, N.Y. – Aug. 14 at the Kermit W. Graf Building, Cornell Cooperative Extension, 423 Griffing Avenue
Point Judith, R.I. – Aug. 15 at the Narragansett Office of Town Managers, 25 Fifth Avenue, Narragansett
New Bedford, Mass. – Aug. 16 at Fairfield Inn and Suites, 185 MacArthur Drive
The council expects to receive summaries of the input from the public meetings as well as written comments at its September meeting in Gloucester, Mass.
Gulf of Maine Research Institute is contracted to conduct the port meetings, and MRAG Americas will support the technical working group conducing the review. MRAG Americas is contracted to:
Facilitate working group meetings;
Research and summarize pertinent information, and coordinate working group review documents;
Assist with developing and writing the draft Catch Shares Program Review document; and
Present the draft document to the Groundfish Plan Development Team, Groundfish and Recreational Advisory Panels, Scientific and Statistical Committee, Groundfish Committee, and the full council.
You can submit written comments via email , via fax (978) 465-3116 or by mail:
Tom Nies, Executive Director
New England Fishery Management Council
50 Water St., Mill 2
Newburyport, MA 01950
If you have questions about the review process, contact Dr. Jamie Cournane, the council’s groundfish plan coordinator, at (978) 465-0492 ext. 103 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Canadian government imposed new vessel speed restrictions June 27 after four dead North Atlantic right whales were reported within 48 hours in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Six right whales in all have been found dead so far this year, putting 2019 on track to be the deadliest for the endangered species since 2017, when a dozen died in the gulf, spurring new efforts to reduce fatalities from ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement.
The sixth whale carcass was spotted June 27 floating off Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula during an aerial survey, less than 24 hours after the fifth dead whale appeared at Anticosta Island in the province. Late that day the minister of transport, Marc Garneau, announced Transport Canada would enforce “an interim precautionary speed restriction” of 10 knots on vessels 20 meters (65 feet) or more in the western gulf shipping lanes near Anticosta.
The new rule expands restrictions imposed April 28 on a large area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence where the speed limit applies until Nov. 15. Transport officials said they are stepping up aerial surveillance in the gulf and inspectors will enforce the rule with help from the coast guard. Violators could face administrative fines up to $25,000.
“The Government of Canada takes the protection, conservation, and recovery of endangered species very seriously,” Garneau said in announcing the new measures. “For the past three years, our government has taken concrete action to help protect the North Atlantic right whales, who have been increasingly present in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in recent years.”
Transport officials say the 10-knot limits reduces chances of a fatal ship strike by 70 percent.
The North Atlantic right whale population has declined to just over 400 animals that migrate off the coast from Canada to Georgia, and U.S. government agencies and states are engaged in the same kinds of efforts to reduce the danger from ship strikes in sea lanes off the East Coast ports, and fishing gear entanglements.
In April, NOAA announced the U.S. fishing industry must reduce entanglement risk by 60 to 80 percent to reduce injuries and deaths for whales. Maine for one has committed to a 50 percent reduction in vertical lines in the lobster fishery.
Jonesport and Beals Island lobstermen have always loved a good race, from the days of the sailing Moosabec Reach boats to the diesel- and gas-powered lobster boats of today. That enthusiasm is a big reason why 125 boats showed up for Saturday’s Moosabec Reach Lobster Boat Races — 25 more boats than a year ago.
Part of the day’s events was a tribute to the late Galen Alley with upward of 50 boats making a run up the racecourse in his memory. Alley, who died Jan. 16, 2019, in an automobile accident, was a major force in lobster boat racing for a good 10 years, setting the speed record of 72.8 mph in his Foolish Pleasure.
One of Saturday’s surprises was the appearance of Jeremy Beal’s Maria’s Nightmare, a Mussel Ridge 28 with a 2,500-hp Chevy. Maria’s Nightmare made the first two races at Boothbay and Rockland but didn’t do well and didn’t show up on June 23 for the Bass Harbor races. But she certainly was at Moosabec Reach. Maria’s Nightmare was the only boat in her class (Gasoline Class E — V8, over 525 cid, 28 feet and over superchargers/turbo), so winning that race wasn’t a problem. The really big surprise was the last race of the day, the World’s Fastest Recreational Lobster Boat where Maria’s Nightmare ran away from Cameron Crawford’s Wild Wild West, a West 28 with a 1,050-hp Isotta.
Unfortunately, the race committee’s radar gun wasn’t working. So the official speed on Maria’s Nightmare when she hit the finish line is unknown. But because “she beat Wild Wild West by a good margin,” says Jon Johansen, president of Maine Lobster Boat Racing, and since Wild Wild West has been running just under 60 mph, he figures Maria’s Nightmare was going well over 60 mph.
At a horsepower level more common to the average lobsterman, Calvin Beal Jr. came out in a new boat, the Jeanine Marie, a Calvin 30 with a 235-hp Cummins, and won his race (Diesel, Class A up to 235 hp, 24 to 31 feet) against seven other boats “just walking away,” says Johansen.
A boat that has dominated Diesel Class G (436 to 550 hp, 28 to 35 feet) for the past couple of years learned what it means not to always be the first across the finish line. That would be Dana Beal’s Right Stuff, a Libby 34 with a 500-hp Cummins. She was matched up against three other boats, including Jeremy Beal’s Semper Fi, a Crowley 28 that had been rebuilt by Wayne Beal and had a 500-hp Cummins for power. This was Semper Fi’s first race, and she won it. Right Stuff was second.
One thing that every lobsterman who depends on his boat to earn a living has to think about at some point in the time leading up to a race is, “What happens if something goes wrong with my engine?” One possible casualty of the Moosabec Reach races was Wayne Rich’s Wide Open, a Robert Rich 26 with a 350 Chevy.
“I think we lost Wide Open,” says Johansen of the Gasoline Class B, V8, up to 375 cid, 24 feet and over. “He made the run down in his class, got to the finish line and had to be towed off.” Johansen later saw Wide Open at a nearby boatbuilder’s shop.
Hopefully Wide Open will be at the next race, which will be at Stonington this coming Sunday, July 7.
The Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) introduced Anna Carpenter July 1 as the group’s new communications and membership coordinator.
In that newly created position, Carpenter will help craft GAPP’s marketing narrative for wild Alaska Pollock, and be the group’s voice on social media.
“When the GAPP Board of Directors approved our ambitious Year 2 Strategic Plan at its meeting in April, they also graciously approved the second-ever full time staff position and encouraged me to go out and recruit the best and brightest to support the GAPP mission,” said Craig Morris, GAPP’s CEO. “Anna is just that—and will be a great addition to GAPP’s small but mighty staff and a great new member of Team Wild Alaska Pollock.”
Carpenter, who hails from South Bend, Ind., is a recent graduate of Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind., where she received a B.A. in communication studies. Carpenter has a passion for non-profit work and communications and was recently employed by Dimension Mill, a nonprofit startup based in Bloomington, IN, where she gained experience coordinating and executing the organization’s marketing and communications efforts.
She has also served multiple roles within St. Mary’s College, gaining experience with grassroots and social media marketing as well as communications.
“I am thrilled to be joining GAPP and excited to help the organization grow during this critical time for the Wild Alaska Pollock industry,” said Carpenter. “I know I have a lot to learn about the industry and am looking forward to spending time working with our membership and determining how I can best support our members, their organizations and the GAPP mission and vision.”