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December 11, 2015     Quoddy Tides
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December 11, 2015
 

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Page 2 THE QUODDY TIDES 11 December, 2015 CAPTAIN MILTON CHUTE and sternman Roger Wright survey the contents of the drag, checking to see how many scallops are of legal size. (JD Rule photo) Draggers head out by J.D. Rule Orion hovered just over the horizon, and the deck was slippery with ice. All around, in the pre-dawn darkness, boats were getting under way, and on the VHF fishermen debated the exact minute sun- rise would herald the start of the 2015-16 scallop season in Maine. December 1 was as cold as it often is, and as the boats headed out most crew members were warming themselves in crowded wheel- houses. "Six fifty-four," declared one, crackling over the radio. "That' s when we can start." In Zone 3, which covers Cobscook Bay, Tuesday and Wednesday were set for draggers, with Thursday through Satur- day reserved for divers. In subsequent weeks the drag schedule adds in Mon- days. The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) monitors the harvest and will close the season at the point it considers the resource threatened. Milton Chute of Lubec steered the 42- foot Captain's Lady towards shoal waters just west of Treat's Island. "We did well there last year," said sternman Roger Wright, who together with his nephew Justin Wright make up the crew. Pointing at several boats that had attracted large flocks of birds, Wright said, "The gulls, they know it's first day of scallop sea- son." This year, Zone 3 and Zone 2, which includes the rest of the waters in eastern Maine, opened two weeks before Zone 1, which runs from Penobscot Bay to the New Hampshire line, prompting fears that Zone 1 draggers would crowd out local fishermen and deplete the resource. Local towns then instituted limits on mooting spaces in the hope of alleviating conges- 123 Water St., Eastport, Maine In Back of Quoddy Tides Building 50% Off All Stock! Share your pride in The Quoddy Tides with 100% rugged cotton logo sweatshirts Books of local interest All occasion Ann Kilham card sets Stocking stuffers Playing cards Ornaments, cord bracelets and more on opening tion. As of 10 a.m. the day before opening day, 17 boats were moored at the normal- ly empty Edmunds boat ramp, with 11 additional floats vacant at that time. Many boats were seen entering later that day, coming through the Lubec Narrows from points down the coast. The DMR has ex- pressed concern that boats moored at Ed- munds must transit the hazardous passage at Reversing Falls, but Dennys and Whit- ing bays both have rich bottom. At exactly 6:54 a.m. the sun's first rays lit up the waters, and the howling of winches announced drags being released. By 7:20 a.m., nine boats, mostly local ones, were counted working the bottom east of Seward's Neck, but by 8 a.m. most had returned to port with their daily quota filled. Zone 3 scallopers are restricted to a 10-gallon daily limit, which equates to ap- proximately 90 pounds. Zones 1 and 2 have 15-gallon limits, but Cobscook Bay is regarded as being the best scallop bot- tom in Maine and fighter limits, including a shorter calendar, are applied to protect the resource. As successive drags were brought in, both Wrights sorted through the sublegal scallops, urchins, crabs and starfish for the larger scallops, the ones that will not pass through a .four-inch ring. While Roger completed the sorting and returned the by- catch to the water, Justin shucked while Milton and Roger kept a close eye as the buckets began to fill. "It's going to be a short season," re- marked Wright, eyeing the high numbers of sublegal scallops coming on board. Sev- eral times in the last few years the DMR has ordered the closure of Cobscook Bay waters, as well as other parts of the state, based on the low percentage of legal-sized scallops. At the point they felt enough legal scal- lops were on board, Chute headed back to Lubec where all three would complete the shucking process in a harbor filled with other boats doing the same thing. In Maine, it is not legal to land a scallop in the shell, because of concerns of bacterial contamination of the portions not con- sumed. Completing the shucking process took another half hour, at which point the catch was landed and sold to the commercial buyer. The price paid was $12.25 per pound, meaning that three men plus a boat, working for four hours, brought in nearly $1,100. Mooring For Sale In Lubec Harbor near town dock. 3500# block, 59' of 3/4" chain, 55' of 1/2" chain, 30" buoy. $2,500. 207-733-6110. SCALLOP BOATS (from page 1) fisherman Scott Emery, who is president three days a week that are open fishing of the Cobscook Bay Fishermen's Associ- days, with the DMR closing the bay when ation. "It's about the same as last year." the target is reached, rather than having He adds, "There's a lot of small stuff. It one of the days cut earlier. looks good for another year." The DMR's estimated scallop biomass However, Perry fisherman Tom Pottle of 340,000 pounds in Cobscook Bay this comments, "I don't think the volume is year is one of the higher years, but Cheney there or the size as there was the last few notes that last year it was much greater, at years." He believes that fishermen are 595,000 pounds. While there had been a good about not keeping scallops that are large amount of sublegal-size scallops that less than 4" in size, noting that the meat became legal size this year, Cheney ob- count in Cobscook Bay "keeps you honest serves that there's still "a huge amount of or accountable for what you have in the seed" in the bay this year. "We want to be bucket." mindful of that," so that draggers don't Interim Lubec Harbormaster Julie damage the resource for next year. Keene comments, "Things look pretty The DMR will conduct an in-season calm over here. People are just fishing, survey of the biomass on December 18 getting scallops and going home." and 19, which will be used to double- Fishermen have been receiving a good check on the estimated removal rate. price, at about $12.50 a pound, which is about the same as last year. Issues raised at Whiting meeting Concerning why more draggers from Much of the discussion at the DMR out- other ports have not come to Cobscook reach meeting in Whiting on November thisyear, Cheney says, "I think a lot ofthe 30 focused on moorings -- the number guys are fishing the rotational areas that allowed in certain areas and whether or just opened." The DMR has been phasing not fishermen should be allowed to have a in rotationalclosuresofcertain areas, with mooring in places other than their own this year only a third of those areas being town. With regard to the latter, some of open. the fishermen present said that they had Between 15 and 25 draggers have been been told if they were not from that town in Gouldsboro Bay, 31 in the Machias Bay then they should not be there. Cheney area and about 20 in the Jonesport Reach pointed out that mooring ordinances are a area, although a number of those boats municipal, rather than a state, issue. have now scattered to other grounds. Cheney also mentioned that there is "no Cheney says the DMR's target of 30% meat count other than in Cobscook Bay" removal of the biomass had already been and that the DMR is "doing a rewrite of exceeded by December 7 in Gouldsboro regulations" for clarification purposes. A Bay, and the Machias and Jonesport areas local resident commented about the Cob- have met the target. The DMR will be scook Bay area and the rest of eastern considering closures in all three areas next Maine opening first and allowing other week. draggers to come in for two weeks and Cheney notes that the DMR had warned noted that there is noticeably less wildlife fishermen that it would be a lean year and in the water in recent years. Cheney said that emergency closures to prevent the de- that "people can move back and forth" pletion of the resource would be likely, as and that the department tries to "keep base the rotational closure areas that opened data on what those in the zone want." As this year had only one year for the re- an example, she said, "Zone 1 is mostly source to rebuild. Last year, the open rota- lobster fishing now but may come here in tional areas had two years for rebuilding January." She added that she had "not and greater biomass, heard of travelling all the way to Cob- Pottle speculates that the boat mooting scook" by fishermen from the western part limits that have been enacted by towns of the state. around Cobscook Bay may also be keep- Cheney said that it is expected that there ing some boats from coming to the bay. will be "a lot of under-measure scallops Concerning the Zone 3 area that covers this year, with the average meat size down Cobscook Bay, Cheney says that, with the 15%. Size will be monitored every couple current number of boats fishing, the DMR of weeks." projects the target will not be met until In answer to a question about children January 30, which would provide for 27 being able to get licenses or getting back a days of fishing out of the 50-day season license that has not been renewed, Cheney that was set to extend to March 23. How- said the DMR "wants broad participation" ever, if a number of boats come into Cob- in the fishery and noted the increase in the scook Bay in the next week or so, the number of active licenses from 168 in season could be even shorter. 2009 to 438 in 2014. Possibilities to allow Last year, the DMR closed Cobscook new entrants into the fishery include a Bay on February 28 after the target was lottery for licenses or apprenticeships. A exceeded but kept the St. Croix River area bill submitted during the last legislative open for one day a week, and Cheney says session was said not to have passed be- that option may be considered this year, cause it had no "future component." too. At a DMR outreach meeting in Whit- Cheney said this issue may be discussed ing on November 30, the group of about next year in the legislature. 25 fishermen overwhelmingly indicated (Reporter Mary Alice Look contributed that they would prefer fishing the current to this article.) HEADING for home after a good morning's work on the opening day of the Maine scallop season. (JD Rule photo)