Maine Fishermen’s Forum set for next week in Rockport

Posted Feb. 25, 2011, at 7:53 p.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — A new marine resources commissioner will be introduced and a new national oceans policy will be discussed next week at the annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum.

The 36th annual winter convention for Maine fishermen, industry officials, and regulators will be held at the Samoset Resort, its usual location, from Thursday through Saturday, March 3, 4 and 5. As part of the forum, the annual meeting of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the largest commercial fishermen’s organization in Maine, will be held at the resort from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. Friday, March 4.

For the first time in 13 years, there will be a new commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources at the forum. Norman Olsen, a Cherryfield resident who has replaced George Lapointe in the position, is expected to attend the forum, which typically also draws many elected state officials and members of Maine’s congressional delegation. Lapointe held the top DMR post under former Govs. Angus King and John Baldacci, from late 1998 until early this year.

A session specifically scheduled for Olsen to introduce himself and to speak about issues facing fishermen and the department will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon Friday, March 4.

President Barack Obama’s new national ocean policy also will get some scrutiny at the forum, in a 9 a.m. session Friday morning. Last summer, Obama signed an executive order establishing the policy, which is aimed at coordinating the efforts of federal agencies that regulate marine uses and protect the country’s marine areas, coasts and Great Lakes, according to forum officials. The policy creates a Cabinet-level National Ocean Council and a regional approach to coastal and marine spatial planning. Marine spatial planning involves analyzing current and anticipated uses of ocean and coastal areas to identify the most suitable activities with the least conflict and environmental impact.

The session will feature federal and state officials and fishing industry representatives who will talk about what is happening nationally and regionally to implement the new policy.

On a related topic, a separate session will be held at 1 p.m. Friday to provide information about marine spatial planning and, more specifically, the prospects of offshore wind turbine development in the Gulf of Maine. This session, featuring a panel of scientists and state and federal officials, will focus on current efforts to pursue floating offshore wind facilities 10 miles or more out in the gulf; how marine spatial planning will affect such development; and how fishermen might be affected by both wind facilities and spatial planning.

As usual, the forum will have sessions aimed at helping fishermen learn about what’s new in many Maine fisheries, including lobster, scallops, herring, shrimp, and groundfish. There will be a session Thursday morning about trade adjustment assistance for lobstermen who have been affected by the economic downturn. There also will be sessions on ocean acidification, right whale ecology and whale-safe gear, municipal shellfish management, and other topics.

Forum officials are seeking more scholarship applicants and have scheduled a scholarship fundraiser auction at the forum for 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 4. Applications and information about the scholarships can be found online at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum website.

The forum also will have a vendors’ trade show that will be open from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, March 3, and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 4 and 5.

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