ELLSWORTH, Maine — Though some people expressed support Wednesday for a legislative bill that would establish a system of area management for the state’s scallop fishery, others spoke against the idea, according to an official with the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
Togue Brawn, resource management coordinator for the state agency, said that four people spoke in favor of LD 932 and three spoke against it at a public hearing on the bill at the state Capitol complex in Augusta on Wednesday. Exactly how the fishery would be managed is not specified in the bill. Ideas that have been considered include establishing territorial license limits such as those in Maine’s lobster fishery as well as allowing for regional harvesting requirements without imposing territorial license limits.
The bill is being developed in response to ongoing concerns about steep declines in scallop harvests in recent years.
Brawn said some who spoke Wednesday in opposition to the bill, including Scallop Advisory Council Chairman Dana Temple, argued that establishing area management for the scallop fishery now would be premature.
In prepared testimony to the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee, Temple indicated that the fishery has been through significant changes in the past two years. Among other changes, the minimum size has been increased, the season has been shortened from 135 days to 70 days, and 10 multiyear closure areas have been established, he said.
“Having spent a full two years developing closed areas, we are currently working to determine appropriate ways to manage them prior to their re-opening,” Temple said. “The establishment of closed areas was a difficult process, and the seemingly rapid pace of change in Maine’s scallop fishery management has frustrated some fishermen. To require area management prior to defining it may further alienate these fishermen, many of whom are afraid of being locked out of certain areas.”
Sherm Hoyt, a fisherman from St. George, said in a telephone interview that he testified Wednesday in favor of LD 932, but not so area management for scallops can be imposed statewide. He said he does not have any particular area management model in mind. He supports pursuing pilot projects in certain areas where there appears to be local support for it.
Some additional measures need to be put in place, Hoyt said, before the closure areas are reopened to fishing in the next two to three years. If not, the productive areas will attract a lot of fishing effort and could end up being depleted.
“There has to be some control of fishing effort,” Hoyt said. “I think area management deserves to be tried.”
A work session on the bill and other proposed marine resource measures is expected to be held Wednesday, Jan. 20, in Room 214 of the Cross office building at the state Capitol complex, according to Brawn. She said she was not sure what time the session would take place.