BRUNSWICK, Maine — As a massive vacuum truck from Clean Harbors traveled along the shoreline near Simpsons Point midweek to clean up rotting pogies, local fishermen were battling what they say was a raft of misinformation put forth by the state about how and why those pogies were dumped from a local fishing vessel on June 6.
On Tuesday, a day after residents of the Simpsons Point area asked town councilors to help pay for a professional cleanup of the fish, local lobsterman Steve Anderson posted a 10-minute video on YouTube, taking local media to task for only reporting part of the story and excoriating the Maine Department of Marine Resources for a quota system Anderson said simply doesn’t work.
Anderson declined requests to speak to the Bangor Daily News this week.
But Jeff Nichols, spokesman for the DMR, said Friday that Anderson “got a lot of things wrong,” including that DMR imposes the quota system. According to Nichols, while fishermen are still held to a quota,they can transfer their catch to another vessel, to act as a carrier vessel.
Quotas for Atlantic Menhaden, or pogies, are imposed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and implemented by state marine resources regulators. This year’s quota allowed Maine fishermen to catch 161,000 pounds per year, then to reapply to catch more if there is still stock, as there is this year but not every year.
“We hit that [quota] at the end of May, and then we could apply for an ‘episodic event fishery’ quota triggered when there are still fish in the water,” Nichols said.
This year, fishermen were granted additional quotas of 120,000 pounds per day per boat, Nichols said.
NIchols said the DMR has not received reports of fishermen dumping fish other than the incident in Brunswick, which he said was “one harvester who made a mistake.” He also said that contrary to what Anderson said in his video, fishermen are allowed to transfer fish to each other.
James Sulikowski, a marine biologist and professor at the University of New England, said Thursday that he “empathize[s] a little bit” with the fishermen who must comply with the quotas, but he said both state and federal regulators have clearly worked hard to renew the numbers of fish.
“Fishermen and management often butt heads, but management has done a great job of bringing a lot of stocks back. Sometimes management can be reactive instead of proactive, but that’s the nature of the beast, and management of menhaden is working towards being more proactive and that’s what we want.”
Brunswick Marine Resources Officer Dan Devereaux said he also empathizes with the fishermen, and suggested a quota system similar to that for clam harvesters that allows a little flexibility.
Meanwhile, Devereaux worked with Clean Harbor to vacuum up the remaining dead pogies in tidal creeks. Clean Harbors worked eight hours on Thursday, at $300 an hour, and was due to return for another three hours on Friday.