Maine marine resources chief names panel to determine rockweed no-harvest areas

Posted Aug. 19, 2014, at 10:49 a.m.

Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher announced Monday the appointment of five people to a panel that will develop criteria for determining ecologically sensitive areas that should be off limits to rockweed harvesting.

The working group is comprised of four scientists and conservationists and one representative of the industry that harvests rockweed. Three members previously served on a study group that developed a rockweed management plan and recommended the formation of a working group to conserve some areas from rockweed harvesting.

“The group I selected for this important effort has a remarkable depth of relevant knowledge, expertise and experience,” Keliher said in an announcement issued by the Department of Marine Resources. “I appreciate the commitment each is showing to this fishery and to Maine’s coastal ecology.”

Named to the working group were Brian Beal, professor of marine ecology at the University of Maine-Machias, Nancy Sferra, director of science and stewardship for The Nature Conservancy, and Dave Preston, an employee of North American Kelp in Waldoboro. All three served on the rockweed study group in 2013.

Beal has published numerous peer-reviewed studies on marine organisms including clams, lobster, quahogs, eelgrass, kelp, rockweed and scallops; he also is director of research for the Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research & Education on Great Wass Island in Beals.

Sferra has expertise in wildlife biology and land conservation; she previously served as the southern Maine preserves manager and land steward for The Nature Conservancy.

Preston’s responsibilities with North American Kelp include quality control, organic certification, and harvester management; an expert in the area of mechanical harvesting, he also is a member of the Maine Seaweed Council.

The other members of the working group are Jim Gilbert and Lindsay Tudor. Gilbert is a retired professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Maine who is best known for marine mammal research; he has served on the Northeast Atlantic Seal Research Consortium, the Atlantic Marine Mammal Species Status Review Group, and the Guild of Maine Pinniped-Aquaculture Interaction Task Force. Tudor is a wildlife biologist for the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife whose specialty is non-game birds; her focus has been conservation planning, inventory, research, and outreach for shorebirds, terns and harlequin ducks.

The working group likely will hold its first meeting in late September and will meet monthly through January, when it will present a report to the Marine Resources Committee of the Maine Legislature.

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