EAST MACHIAS, Maine — Balancing the dynamic biology of different marine resources seems to Trisha DeGraff to be a never-ending challenge.
A marine resource management coordinator with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, DeGraff was in Washington County on Tuesday soliciting advice from scallop fishermen in East Machias and Jonesport on how best to prevent overfishing while allowing for enough catch to sustain the local economy.
DMR has closed some Down East areas to scallop fishing as part of a strategy to rebuild Maine’s scallop resource. After being in place for three years, those closures will end this year, prompting the agency to develop a new rotational management plan for waters between Lubec in Washington County and the Schoodic Peninsula in Hancock County.
Tuesday morning’s meeting at Washington Academy was the sixth of eight scoping sessions that began on May 21 in Milbridge and will continue through June 11 in Stonington. A second Washington County session was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at Jonesport High School.
DeGraff, a marine biologist, said Tuesday that the current closures have allowed scallop stocks to rebound.
“All the areas have responded well,” she said. “We want to build on that momentum and continue on a path to bring up the resource by giving different areas a break, allowing them to take a rest and rebuild.”
Sessions like those Tuesday are providing front-lines input that will be used to draft a new rotational management proposal. The new proposal will be reviewed by the Scallop Advisory Council before being discussed at more public hearings, including in Down East coastal areas.
The closure maps discussed Tuesday remain very much a work in progress, DeGraff said.
“It’s a real balancing act,” she told the eight people who attended the session in East Machias. “And there may be some portions of areas that are currently closed that will remain closed. A lot of next year will involve determining how to shut down a targeted area without decimating it. We need to make sure there’s still stuff on the bottom needed to rebuild. The ideal situation is to stop harvesting after taking 30 percent of what’s there.”
Some of those attending Tuesday morning’s session pointed out that areas closed to scalloping also may need restrictions on dragging for mussels and urchins, as those activities impact scallop survival.