AUGUSTA, Maube — Legislators on Wednesday wanted to hear from state fisheries officials about why regulators wanted to cancel the second half of Maine’s scallop season.
David Etnier, deputy commissioner for the state Department of Marine Resources, told the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee that the decision, which later was changed to spot closures along the coast, was not prompted by a wealth of empirical data.
It often takes time to collect scientific data about Maine’s marine resources, he said, so regulators often have to balance the anecdotal evidence they hear with historical trends when making quick decisions.
“We don’t have exhaustive scientific information on any of our fisheries,” Etnier told the committee. “[We’re] pretty near [that] with lobster, but not much else.”
Etnier addressed the committee Wednesday morning as it held two public hearings on bills that would affect how the scallop fishery is managed in Maine waters.
Etnier told the legislators that there are no recent scientific indicators that prompted DMR to enact the closures. Without going into specifics, he said the department would be happy to explain its reasoning and to share with the committee what information it has about the scallop fishery when the committee meets next to hold work sessions on the bills.
Committee members indicated that they would be willing to wait until then to find out more. The work sessions have not yet been scheduled but are expected to take place sometime after next week.
One of the bills discussed Wednesday, LD 836, would require the marine resources commissioner to consult with the Legislature and the scallop advisory council before enacting any emergency closures. The same bill would allow DMR to limit the number of days fishermen can harvest scallops during scallop season but would bar the state agency from changing the length or timing of the season.
Before the department enacted emergency spot closures last month, the entire coast was expected to be open to harvesting to anyone with a state scallop license from Dec. 1 to Jan. 4 and then from Feb. 25 through March 31.
The other bill, LD 932, is simply a concept draft that would prompt state regulators to come up with a plan for how an area management system might apply to the state’s scallop fishery. There are no specifics in LD 932 about how area management might be implemented.