Jul 31, 2015

NRCM hosts Clean Power Plan rally in Rockland. Critics pan Plan's call for expanding natural gas consumption.

On July 30th Natural Resources Council of Maine visited Rockland Maine's Sandy Beach  and held a public rally in support of the new Federal Clean Power Plan put forward by US EPA.

The Friends of Penobscot Bay joined them. But we  urged President Obama and NRCM to oppose a part of the Clean Power plan calling for an increase in natural gas burning power plants before transitioning to solar and other renewables. (Links to media coverage below) 

While the plan is ambitious in calling for each state  to achieve nearly full renewable power generation by 2022, it also calls for an increase in natural gas consumption BEFORE transitioning to solar and other renewables.

Check out:
Rockland Gathering Calls For Climate Change Action BDN

Rockland Rally combats climate change Courier Gazette  

Dozens gather to support Clean Power Plan  WABI-TV                

The question for Penobscot Bay: how long will that transition be? 

For if natural gas pipelines are installed along the Route 1 corridor,  then sprawl will follow with all its ecological discontents, and lobsters and others seafood species and  their prey and habitat living along west Penobscot Bay  bay and bay coasts living things will decline. 

Friends of Penobscot Bay took part in the event.  Concerned about the above, we brought a banner that stated simply: DON'T GAS THE BAY, and told the press before and after the meeting  of our concern that the clean power plan was being coopted by Big Gas 

FOPB's  concern is that  this transition/delay in  going renewable as national policy could continue until the frack fields and ocean  gas leases run dry!

Happily the Plan's language appears to give each state wide latitude in reaching its individual goal of carbon pollution reduction. Unhappily all signs point to gassing the bay being the preferred alternative Senator Angus King and the Governor Lepage - If NRCM, CLF and other Bigfoot Enviros take the no-new-gas-pipelines position, blocking this inappprriate energy tech from being emplaced will be a gfreat deal easier.efforts to gasify West Penobscot Bay  
  Read and watch the below media coverages at  Sandy Beach 7/30/15  by BDN, Courier and WABI-TV.  Excerpts we're mentioned in are there before each full article.  Our "Don't Gas the Bay" banner shown in Courier and WABI

Bangor Daily News
Excerpt: "Participating in the rally were members of a group called Renew Rockland, which opposes the proposed natural gas-fired power plant that is being considered for Rockland. Member Amy Files said natural gas plants such as this displace renewable power projects."
Full article
Rockland Gathering Calls For Climate Change Action by Stephen Betts
ROCKLAND, Maine — With Rockland Harbor and the Maine Lobster Festival as backdrops, a group of environmental activists turned out Thursday to voice support for federal regulation of carbon emissions.
About 70 people were at Sandy Beach in Rockland for the rally. The event was timed to precede the expected announcement next week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of what the federal agency has called a Clean Power Plan.
“This is the first ever regulation of carbon pollution in the United States,” said Beth Ahearn, policy director of the Maine Conservation Alliance.
Richard Nelson, a commercial fisherman from Friendship and a member of Maine’s Ocean Acidification Commission, also called for more aggressive federal action on climate change.
The speakers noted that the release of carbon into the atmosphere not only warms the air but the oceans. Ahearn said that 2014 was the hottest year on record and 2015 is expected to exceed that record.
Richard Nelson, Friendship, Maine lobsterman. BDN photo
Nelson said that a warming ocean will have a negative effect on the lobster industry. He said warming waters off Long Island have led to a sharp decline in the lobster catch there as the crustaceans head for cooler waters. He said if the ocean continues to warm, the same will happen to Maine.
Ahearn said that the proposed federal regulations will require states to reduce carbon pollution by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. This is aimed at power plants that are the greatest source of carbon emissions, she said.
Maine is well positioned to meet those goals, she said, by its participation in the regional greenhouse gas reduction initiative.
The speakers urged citizens to contact their U.S. senators to support the measure.
Todd Martin, the grassroots outreach coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said that the regulations will go into effect unless Congress votes to block them.
Participating in the rally were members of a group called Renew Rockland, which opposes the proposed natural gas-fired power plant that is being considered for Rockland. Member Amy Files said natural gas plants such as this displace renewable power projects.
Courier Gazette 
Excerpt: "Members of Rockland's own environmental movement, Renew Rockland, held a sign that said, "Don't Gas The Bay." Ron Huber of the Friends of Penobscot Bay and Renew Rockland said the group is concerned about plans for a natural gas-fired power plant in Rockland, arguing natural gas brings sprawl and run-off that hurts the bay and the lobster industry. He said some argue natural gas is a transition fuel, cleaner than coal plants, but he said some fear the transition will only be complete when all of the gas is gone."

Full article
By Dan Dunkle
ROCKLAND — A group of concerned citizens, including speakers from the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Maine Conservation Alliance, gathered on Sandy Beach in Rockland's South End July 30 to combat climate change.
They waved signs calling for action on climate change, chanted slogans and formed a line in the sand to show the need for action on the issue. Members of the groups argued the warming of our planet caused by carbon emissions from power plants threatens not only our ocean environment, but our health.  

Beth Ahearn of the Maine Conservation Alliance said climate change is here and undeniable, and it is affecting the Gulf of Maine more quickly than other regions. The warming of the water is leading to acidification, increasing the threat to our lobster fishery.
The good news, she said, is that the federal Environmental Protection Agency is expected to soon release regulations on carbon pollution in the U.S. as part of the Clean Power Plan.
Todd Martin of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said residents need to send a message to Maine lawmakers, especially Sen. Susan Collins, to support this effort.
He spoke of the problem of childhood asthma in Maine and the increase in the number of days when the state experiences bad ozone caused by pollution coming in from other states, making it more difficult for residents with respiratory issues.
Members of Rockland's own environmental movement, Renew Rockland, held a sign that said, "Don't Gas The Bay." Ron Huber of the Friends of Penobscot Bay and Renew Rockland said the group is concerned about plans for a natural gas-fired power plant in Rockland, arguing natural gas brings sprawl and run-off that hurts the bay and the lobster industry. He said some argue natural gas is a transition fuel, cleaner than coal plants, but he said some fear the transition will only be complete when all of the gas is gone.
WABI TV  John  Krinjak
Excerpt:  "Folks from another group, Friends of Penobscot Bay, were also on hand. They want the EPA to change the Clean Power Plan to include more restrictions on natural gas burning in Maine"
Full story 
Dozens of people joined together to take a stand against climate change in Rockland today.
The Maine Conservation Alliance hosted Beat the Heat Rally on Sandy Beach to celebrate the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
The initiative from President Obama goes into effect Monday.
It will require states including Maine to reduce carbon pollution by 2030.
Ralliers urged Maine’s senators to support the plan and take more action against climate change.
“Maine will only benefit by the carbon rule. This is historic. This is the first ever regulation of carbon pollution which greatly impacts our air and also our ocean,” said Beth Ahearn, program director at the Maine Conservation Alliance.
Folks from another group, Friends of Penobscot Bay, were also on hand.
They want the EPA to change the Clean Power Plan to include more restrictions on natural gas burning in Maine.

"Analysis from the U.S. Energy Information Administration has suggested the Clean Power Plan would shift power generation to natural gas in the beginning years before moving states toward renewable energy later on."

Jul 24, 2015

Rocklanders to NRCM: Don't support gassing Penobscot Bay!

Natural Resources Council of Maine supports federal plan that could induce lobster larvae-killing water degradation and coastal sprawl.

ROCKLAND. Plans by the Natural Resources Council of Maine to hold a rally here  on Thursday July 30th  on behalf of the Obama Administration's new energy bill, have taken an unexpected twist, after bay environmental groups reviewing the bill found that its primary effect will be a major expansion of natural gas burning in Maine and elsewhere around the United States. 

"There's got to be a better way than this," says Ron Huber, executive director of Friends of Penobscot Bay, one of  several bay conservation groups slugging it out with gas interests. "Let's not destroy our home to save it."

Boston-based Energy Management Incorporated  proposes building a natural gas burning power plant in the city of Rockland.  EMI's project would be fired by natural gas piped to Rockland from the Maritimes and Northeast pipeline. Once operating in Rockland, the company says it would build additional pipelines along the west coast of Penobscot Bay north to Belfast, and possibly down the Saint George peninsula.

Huber and other bay residents say the so-called Clean Energy Plan will help EMI, not Penobscot Bay.  

"Natural gas expansion along the Penobscot Bay coast would be a major sprawl stimulator" he said.  "Utterly disastrous for this bay, the veryheart of Maine's lobster fishery. What is NRCM thinking?"

Bill supporters say that the expanded gas burning is only transitional. "Right!" the veteran bay activist chuckled. We've gotten the "only transitional" assertion  since the early 1990s  from Presidents Clinton, Bush and now Obama. Each time NRCM assured us that gas would be transitional"

"Funny," he added "The only transition that happens was more gas pipelines. More carbon burning. So here we go again."

Huber said he and others will be at NRCM's July 30th  rally to urge the venerable group to reconsider its support of the Clean Power Act.  The event will take place July 30th at Rockland's Sandy Beach Park across the harbor from the ongoing Maine Lobster Festival.

"NRCM is a fine outfit"  says Ron Huber, executive director  of Friends of Penobscot Bay, " But a bill whose main purpose, according to its authors, is to lock ever more communities, like Penobscot Bay's, into long term natural gas consumption, is not  good for Maine.

"We hope they get the message."

Friends of Penobscot Bay. People who care about Maine's biggest bay.

FOPB videos of Penobscot Bay. Aerial, boatcam and scuba

Enjoy selections from the many hours of videos that we've accumulated over the last twenty years.

Rockland Harbor
DMR video made for an aquaculture proposal next to the rockland breakwater that never materialized

shoreline overflight. south side of Passagassawakeag River to Little River, May 1, 2013

Rockport Harbor 6 minutes
Rockport Harbor's Porterfield Ledge 4min
Visit to Rockland Harbor's muddy, lobsterburrow-filled  harbor  16min

GAC Overflight 2013

Sears Island
Scuba video dive off Sears Island  just out from the stone jetty on Sears Island - aka the Ghostport    Five minute extract of a 19 minute recording.  It's muddy and rich in lobster and crab burrows, hydroids  and more.

Full length 19minute video files of the dive, and a copy of  the 5 minute short version  on youtube go to   http://penbay.org/searsisland/si_vid and an excerpt of that video taken by a scuba-diving friend 

They've big ,  best perhaps to right click and "save as " then  play it on  your desktop

Jul 18, 2015

GAC Chemical now employee-owned - will they finally clean up New England's worst landbased ocean acidification source?

Good news! Maine DEP's voluntary remediation chief Nick Hodgkins just wrote that GAC Chemical IS planning to do the long delayed work of removing tons of highly acidic sulfur wastes from its shoreline - apparently this year!

According to Nick the company is in the throes of selecting a contractor to carry it out. Ever optimistic, he wrote that "They have confirmed that the work will be completed in 2015."
Go GAC! Put out that acid "fire" burning the bay!

The site on Kidder Point [presently owned by GAC Chemical  has a fascinating history both as  as a  transportation hub in the 19th century and as host to a succession of  fertilizer and chemical producers in the 20th century.  

For quite some time, to the chagrin of Maine DEP and to the disappointment of the bay conservation community, GAC under Mr Poure had dawdled  on that cleanup project.  It was to be last fall, then it was to begun this spring. Now  GAC has told MDEP it can get it done by the end of this year.  

Whats the problem with the GAC Shore? As a nationally recognized ocean acidifica holds the uneviable top position of being the worst land-based ocean acidifier in the Gulf of  Maine - and  likely along the entire Atlantic coast.  

Why? Because,  before it drains into Stockton Harbor, every raindrop and every snowflake  landing on the landfilled rim of GAC's Kidder Point property  must leach through 1000s of tons of highly acidic sulfur, bauxite and phosphate waste, that was laid down into wooden containment cells along the company's shore between 1940 and 1970 -when the practice of shoreline dumping was banned under the then new federal Clean Water Act 

These legacy waste cells left by GAC's predecessors Northern Chemical, WR Grace and Delta Chemical have not been maintained since the 70s. They are  now crumbling. Result? Tons of acidic sulfur and alum wastes have eroded and continue to erode  into Stockton Harbor, and constitute the worst chronicacid spill that the Gulf of Maine has ever known. 

Details at www.penbay.org,  but the going away message is:  if the employees want to exercise their ownership authority to do their host communities a good turn, they will  direct Mr Colter to immediately move forward  with the plan submitted by GAC to Maine DEP and, as promised,  remove the  tons of  highly acidic sulfur wastes  buried  a few yards from the high tide line before the snow flies

Mother Nature now has a fiery  red & black tattoo - visible from space - burnt into her by this runoff that leaving the flats plumes off into the harbor with each storm, carrying its load of chemicals and heavy metal  leachates with it

I have met many who work at GAC Chemical or have retired from it. and am sure they want to do the right thing for Penobscot Bay. But they _must_ prod Mr Colter into action. This is the second time he has reneged on an agreement to remove these wastes - the first promise was made to Friends of Penobscot Bay  three years ago!  

We urge the employee owners of GAC Chemical to direct their co- employee Colter to honor his agreement to protect Penobscot Bay by digging out the worst of these wastes,  getting GAC Chemical  free of its "Worst Gulf of Maine Ocean Acidifier Ever!" label as quickly as possible.  Then GAC Chemical too, will be a Friend of Penobscot Bay..

Jul 17, 2015

Maine BEP won't take jurisdiction over Searsport megadredge plan. AUDIO Board uncertain whether Searsport & Belfast are separate towns(?)

On July 16th the Maine Board of Environmental Protection voted NOT to assume jurisdiction over the controversial Searsport Harbor "channel widening"  dredge project.
Listen below to recordings of each speaker and  each board discussion that took place at the meeting.

* BEP Chair James Parker opens the  meeting  1min 43 sec

Patricia Aho introduction 3min

* Commissioner's report_Pat Aho  5min

Chairman begins dredging  application part of meeting 2min 6sec

* MDEP Mark Bergeron &  Commissioner Patricia Aho. 4min 32 sec

* MDEP Commissioner Aho's anti jurisdiction rationale 11min 45 sec

Chairman introduces public comment section. 47 seconds

* Steve Hinchman, attorney for Islesboro Island Trust 21min 52sec

* Kim Ervin Tucker, attorney  for Maine Lobstering Union 31min 46 sec

Arch Gillies  Islesboro, Armindy McFadden, Whales Tooth Pub, aquaculturist 17min 20sec

*  Ron Huber Friends of Penobscot Bay, David Black lobsterman, Wayne Canning lobsterman 19min 43 sec

Christopher Hyk,  Elaine Tucker, Belfast, Harlan McLaughlin, Searsport and Barbara Moore, Indian Island 9min15sec.

* Army Corps of Engineer staffer Mark Hable 6min23sec

* Maine BEP & Staff debate  then vote not to assume jurisdiction  41 minutes

Notes: The refusal was made despite voluminous requests they do so from a wide spectrum of  Penobscot Bay user groups area residents and partisans.

The people and their attorneys  explained in detail how the project to dig up nearly a million pounds of centuries-old sediment from the edges of Searsport Harbor, then dump it into waters and onto the bayfloor area shared by Northport and Islesboro,  would shut down lobster fisheries in those waters for three years or more, would kill generations of lobsters at the sites and  wreak havoc with Maine's lobster "brand"  in regional national and global markets  - already beset by the  permanent lobstering closure of lower Penobscot River for chronic mercury contamination.

But it was for naught.

Jul 11, 2015

Maine Legislators tell governor - require an EIS of the megadredge plan

On July 7, 2015  a letter signed by 13 members of the Penobscot Bay caucus (of state legislators with districts adjoining Penobscot Bay), called on the Lepage Administration to require the US Army Corps of Engineers  to prepare an Environmental Impact study  of its proposal to carry out  a massive dredging and spoil dmping project in Searsport and Belfast, respectively
Here are voices from this historic event.


Iselsboro selectman rep Arch Gillies, Islesboro selectman

Wayne Canning Belfast lobsterman 1 min 58sec

Meredith Ares 1min 30 sec

David Black Lobsterman  3min 22 sec

Tony Kulik and response by legislators 3min 45sec

Legislators discuss 2min


Ron Huber and Arch Gillies, Islesboro Selectman 1min

Mussel farm operator(?)

Legislators discuss  7min

Kim Ervin Tucker 3min

Jul 9, 2015

Searsport Mega Dredge: the Four Criteria that the dredge project must meet to be taken up by the BEP

Requests for Maine Board of Environmental Protection to take Jurisdiction over Searsport mega dredge application must meet at least three of these four criteria.

* Will have an environmental or economic impact in more than one municipality,     territory or county;
*  Involves an activity not previously permitted or licensed in the State;
* Is likely to come under significant public scrutiny; and
* Is located in more than one municipality, territory or county.

Let's look at those four in regard to this dredge project:

* Will have an environmental or economic impact in more than one municipality, territory or county.  
YES.  Up to six towns.The sediments would be dredged in  Searsport  and dumped in waters shared by Belfast and Islesboro. In addition the plume from the spoils would likely spread to Northport's waters.  Bangor civic organizations have declared that their city will be significantly benefited by the dredge project. Finally some of the waste would be landfilled. Local options are limited; it may need to go to the Orrington landfill.

*  Involves an activity not previously permitted or licensed in the State; 
YES.  Never has so much spoils been dug out from one Maine harbor, and then  dumped (approximately 1,000 bargeloads)  into one location in inshore state waters.

Never has the state of Maine proposed approving such an economically damaging project on behalf of two foreign oil companies  that officials admit would suppress the lobster fisheries and mussel farming of at least two towns  for up to three years  -  with NO compensation - for a dredge project the applicant itself  freely admits will  at best save two or thee ships a year from having to wait in the Searsport anchorage a few hours before offloading at their Mack Point terminals

* Is likely to come under significant public scrutiny
YES The project has been and will continue to be under a great deal of public scrutiny! It has pitted towns against one another - Belfast and Islesboro against Searsport and Bangor.  Public  meetings and hearings have been held by municipalities,  by federal and state agencies and by non government organizations, to assist the public in their scrutiny of,  and observations about, this dredge proposal 

* Is located in more than one municipality, territory or county. 
YES. The dredging would take plan in Searsport, the dredge materials would be disposed of in waters shared by Belfast and Islesboro.

Looks like the proposed dredging project easily meets all four criteria!

More info on the criteria click here

Searsport Harbor Mega-dredge plan: Board of Enviro Protection to decide if it will take over state decisionmaking.

Searsport Harbor Super-Dredge/Dump Plan:
Will the Maine Board of Environmental Protection  take over  state decisionmaking on controversial plan for biggest Maine dredge project ever?

On July 16th the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) will hold a hearing on requests that it take over decisionmaking  about the Army Corps of Engineers application to dredge up nearly 900,000 cubic yards of sediments from outer Searsport Harbor and nearby Long Cove,then dump them  several miles away at a site between Belfast and Islesboro Island. The Board has four criteria for deciding; at least 3 must be met.

Below read links to the documents being supplied to the BEP by Commissioner Patty Aho about the  incredibly controversial Searsport Navigation Improvement Project.
More than 30 individuals and groups (including Friends of Penobscot Bay) are calling for the BEP to "assume jurisdiction" over the project.

Request for Board to take Jurisdiction. Staff: James Beyer, Bureau of Land Quality
* Staff Memo
* Criteria for Board Jurisdiction:  Excerpts from Statute and Rule
* Commissioner Aho’s June 24, 2015 Determination on Board Jurisdiction

Excerpts from the Application:
* Public Review Draft:  Environmental Assessment April 2013
* Searsport Harbor Federal Navigation Maintenance & Improvement Project:  April 2015 Update
* Letter from Town of Islesboro:  May 27, 2015 Request for Board Jurisdiction
* Islesboro Islands Trust:  June 1, 2015 Request for Board Jurisdiction
* Letter from Kim Ervin Tucker:  June 1, 2015 Request for Board Jurisdiction
* Additional Requests for Board Jurisdiction   (FOPB is on that list)

Jul 5, 2015

Penobscot Bay Gas Chronicles continue - Rocklanders speak out on Big Carbon's plan to set up in Rockland & send a gas pipeline north to Belfast.

Listen to WRFR Community Radio host Ron Huber's interviews of Rockland residents detailing their concerns and insights about the proposal to  build and operate a pipeline-fed natural gas burning power plant in Rockland, Maine only a mile from the shore of Penobscot Bay.

Sandra Schramm  July 4, 2015.  25 minutes 
*  David Myslabodski June 27, 2015. 18 min
*  Judith Lawson June 27, 2015. 16 min
*  Ron Huber & Deb Atwell 6/25/1515 on WERU 58min

Topics include how the project is being handled by Rockland's municipal government, by nongovernment organizations, and by the company applying to build the gas plant: Rockland Energy Center LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Management Incorporated, in Boston.
Topics also include the regional and global implications of increased gas burning rather than adopting as  renewable energy sources as quickly as possible.

Jul 1, 2015

Maine DMR rebuffs National Marine Fisheries Service on intertidal cod habitat

Amazing interchange
First the recent  letter from the National Marine Fisheries service about the importance of intertidal fish habitat. Then the response by Pat Keliher of Maine DMR casting doubt.   Apologies for incomplete re-editing of the text!

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
National Marine Fisheries Service
55 Great Republic Drive Gloucester, MA 01 930-2276

Patrick Keliher Commissioner
Division of Marine Resources
21 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333-0021

Re: State of Maine Rockweed Working Group and Fisheries Management Plan

Dear Mr. Keliher
We have reviewed the Maine Department of Marine Resources Fishery Management Plan (FMp) for Rockweed (Ascophyllum nodosum) implemented January 2014, and have been following the deliberations of the Rockweed Working Group that has been tasked with setting criteria for establishing "no take" areas along the Maine coastline.

We appreciate and commend your efforts to proactively establish a fishery management plan as the rockweed harvest industry appears to be on a rapidly increasing trajectory in Maine. Further, we acknowledge that the harvest management strategy of maintaining a minimum of l6" cutting height above the algal holdfast and recommended measures to limit the total biomass take allocations are representative of sustainable fishery management tools.

We are most interested in the development and implementation of the "no take,' areas since the protection of this macroalgal species has the potential to provide significant habitat value for managed fish species. As such we offer the following comments for youi consideration. Habitat Value of Rockweed As described in the Rockweed FMP, intertidal areas that support Ascophyllum growthconsist of rocky substrates from mid to lower intertidal coastal waters.

The FMP recognizes that this particular species of Ascophyllum is a dominant, major component of the rocky intertidal habitat along the Maine coast, especially within bays and estuaries.

Further, in Section vi., Ecology, of the FMp, the role intertidal rockweed plays in providing forage areas during periods of high tides for fish species is described. In our view, the FMP could provide additional information regarding the role intertidal zones play in providing juvenile fish species refuge from predation, and the importance of these areas in mediating the spatial distribution and survivorship ofjuvenile fish species.

Intertidal and inshore subtidal rocky habitats with added habitat complexity provided by macroalgal cover serve as important shelter and forage habitat for a variety of species including Atlantic cod, pollock, ocean pout, red hake, white hake, windowpane flounder, striped bass, cunner, tautog, and lobster. It is well established that intertidal zones serye as areas of refuge from predation anã foraging habitat for juvenile fish during periods of high tide (Helfman et al. 2009).

 Of particular concern is the juvenile life history stage for Atlantic cod. As you are awaÍe, we issued an update on the stock assessment for Gulf of Maine (GOM) Atlantic cod on August 7,2014. The indicators of stock condition for GOM cod have declined orworsened in20l3, and the spawning stock biomass levels are estimated to be at 3 to 4 percent of the biom *o'-** o, 'ooo target for maximum sustainable yield with biomass at all-time lows. The results of this stock assessment lead to the implementation of Emergency Gulf of Maine Cod Management Measures on November 13,2014.

Given the state of the GOM cod stock, it is essential to conserve as well as minimize adverse impacts to habitats that can support and increase survivorship of critical life stages for this stock. Juvenile Atlantic cod utilization of the intertidal zone has been well documented throughout their range in the northwestern Atlantic and within Maine coastal waters (Ojeda and Dearborn 1990, Moring 1993). Juvenile cod exhibit diel activity patterns within intertidal habitats, and this activity pattern differs based on juvenile age.

Age-O+ and age-l Atlantic cod are found in greater numbers within the intertidal zone at night, and young-of-the-year (age-O) utilize intertidal areas more frequently during the day (Methven and Bajdik 1994, Gran| and Brown 1998, Anderson et aI.2007). This shift in diel activity pattern is also found in subtidal habitats where separation of spatial distribution patterns based on age has been recorded and is attributed to conspecific predation ofage- 0 juveniles by age-l+ juveniles (Grant and Brown 1998, Gotceitas and Brown 1993, Gotceitas et al. 1995 and 1997, Ãnderson et al.2007, Theodorou 2013).

It was also found that there were significantly different spatial distribution patterns and shoaling behavior differences in juvenile cod based on habitat complexity (Grant and Brown 1998, Gotceitas and Brown 1993, Gotceitas et al. 1995 and 1997, Anderson 2007). Multiple studies have demonstrated that despite the potential that juvenile cod may initially settle to the substrate indiscriminately, age-O+ juveniles are more abundant in complex habitats (e.g. rocþ or vegetated habitats), whether this is due to active movement of post-settlement juvenile cod into complex habitats or due to higher survivorship rates in complex habitats is unknown (Lough et al., 1989, Gotceitas and Brown 1993, Fraser et al. 1996, Gotceitas et al. 1997, Grant and Brown 1998, Linehan et al. 2001, ).

The mark-recapture study conducted by Grant and Brown (1998) found a level of site fidelity exhibited by the age-O+ juvenile cod sampled indicating that once settled into complex habitat juvenile cod maintain a level of residency within that habitat.

The structural complexity of rocky substrates with attached macroalgal and macrofauna have been demonstrated to: 1) mediate the spatial distribution ofjuvenile cod, and 2) provide additional refuge from predation that significantly increases survivorship ofjuvenile cod over barren rocky and sand habiøts (Fraser ef al. 1996, Gotceitas et al. 1997 , Lindholm et al. 1999 and 2001).

In a laboratory study, Lindholm et al. (1999) found that juvenile cod survivorship was significantly higher in cobble substrates with dense, emergent coverage compared with smooth cobble and cobble with a low density of emergent coverage. Multiple field studies have demonstrated that juvenile cod occur with higher abundances in rocky habitats with macroalgal coverage versus bare rocþ substrates (Keats et al.1987, Gotceitas etal.1997, Cote et al.2004,Lazzari and Stone 2006).

While the relative abundance and survivorship ofjuvenile cod has not been directly studied inAscophyllum dominated intertidal habitats, the laboratory and field studies that have been conducted suggestthat higher density macroalgal intertidal rocky habitats would support more abundant populations ofjuvenile cod and significantly mediate juvenile survivorship over lower density macroalgal intertidal rocky habitats. Rockweed Working Group As discussed above, we believe that rockweed covered rocky intertidal and subtidal areas play an important role as habitat for managed fish species, particularly juvenile Atlantic cod.

We strongly support consideration by the Rockweed Working Group, of the importance and use of this habitat in I the establishment of criteria for designating "no take" areas and the potential benefits for Atlantic cod and other species from such designations.

We look forward to continued coordination in the implementation of the Rockweed FMP and Rockweed Working Group's development of "no take" area criteria.
Please contact Alison Verkade at978-281-6266 or alison.verkade@noaa.gov if you would like to discuss this further.

Assistant Re gional Administrator for Habitat Conservation co: Chris Vonderweidt, Chair RWG Tom Nies, NEFMC David Preble, NEFMC Kevin Madley, PRD.
References Listed below


Maine DMR's  response  letter

Dept of Marine Resources
21 State house Station
 Augusta ME

June 1, 2015

Louis A. Chiarella
Assistant Regional Administrator for Habitat Conservation
National Marine Fisheries Service
55 Great Republic Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930
Dear Mr. Chiarella,
1 am writing in response to your letter of March 31, 2015 "Re: State of Maine Rockweed Working Group and Fisheries Management Plan." Your letter states that rockweed is of significant habitat value to juvenile Atlantic cod and requests designation of no take zones along the coast. The request is predicated on an understanding that the Rockweed Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and current efforts to develop no—harvest conservation areas are in response to a ‘“rapidly increasing trajectory" of the rockweed fishery. It references several peer reviewed studies to demonstrate how rockweed has been
proven as significant juvenile cod habitat.

The Department of Marine Resources (DMR) first became involved in creating the Rockweed FMP in late 2012 at the request of the Maine Seaweed Council (MSC)—an industry group created to maintain a sustainable seaweed resource in Maine. The MSC approached me because they wanted to develop a
management framework to ensure that Maine’s seaweed fisheries would continue to be harvested in a sustainable manner. As a proponent of FMP’s, 1 directed Dr. Linda Mercer and Chris Vonderweidt of my staff to attend MSC meetings and assist with the development of a seaweed FMP. My hope was that
their end product would include management recormnendations that DMR could implement through rulemaking. DMR eventually took over FMP development in 2013 following legislative approval of a DMR submitted bill (LD 585) that proposed development of a seaweed FMP. The initial seaweed FMP
focused on rockweed only, because rockweed landings comprise over 95% of Maine’s seaweed harvest.

Rockweed has been harvested in Maine for over 40 years and landings are not on a rapidly increasing trajectory as your letter states. The total annual harvest is less than 1% of the coastwide biomass, while natural processes remove 34-50% annually. Only a fraction of rockweed is sold fresh or raw because
unprocessed rockweed brings a relatively low boat price compared to other fisheries. Value must be added through processing into concentrated fertilizers or nutraceuticals. A significant increase in landings is unrealistic and could not happen quickly because processing capabilities are fmite, which
limits the demand for rockweed.

A key question for the Rockweed Working Group’s (RWG) analysis is whether rockweed is a keyhabitat component. lf rockweed is not a key habitat component for a sensitive species then closures to protect that species would be unnecessary and inappropriate. The section of your letter titled "Habitat
Value of Rockweed" is pertinent to this question because it suggests that studies have shown how
rockweed covered rocky intertidal areas play an important role as habitat for juvenile Atlantic cod.
However, the majority of literature that is referenced in your letter has little or no relevance to intertidal macroalgae or juvenile cod utilization of rockweed.

For example, the Habitat Value of Rockweed section of your letter states "Juvenile Atlantic cod utilization of the intertidal zone has been well documented throughout its range in the northwestem Atlantic and within Maine coastal waters (Ojeda and Dearbom 1990, Moring 1993)". The referenced
studies are Diversity, abundance, and spatial distribution of fishes and crustaceans in the rocky subtidal zone ofthe Gub"of Maine by Ojeda and Dearbom and Checklist ofthe tidepoolfishes of Maine by Moring. Ojeda and Dearbom’s study site was a subtidal area devoid of macroalgae. The study site was "sloping relatively flat ledge" from 10-12 meters (33 — 40 feet) depth, "large rocks and boulders" from 12-20 meters (40 — 65 feet) depth, and “primarily sand with occasional boulders" at depth greater than
20 meters (65 feet).

Additionally, cod represented only 3.5% of intercepts. ln other words, the study area was not rockweed habitat or representative of an area that could be rockweed habitat and few cod were caught.

Dearborn’s paper focuses on fish species that were collected in studies of fish trapped in saltmarsh and
rocky intertidal tidepools during low tide. The intent of the paper as explained in the introduction is
documenting species that were collected in other studies generally (including published and unpublished
literature). As Dearborn explains, species listed on the checklist of tidepool fishes fall into one of three
categories of intertidal habitat use. "Fishes in tidepools, whether in rocky intertidal areas or in trapped
pools in salt marshes, can generally be grouped in one of three categories: (1) resident fishes using
tidepools over an extended period of the life cycle, (2) juveniles using tidepools in only the first (or
sometimes second) year of life, and (3) transient or rare visitors to tidepools that are not expected to be
encountered during successive tidal cycles. In other words, it is inappropriate to infer significant
intertidal use solely because a species was doctunented in a tidepool. That aside, cod were never
actually collected in any of the nine studies of tidepool fish that Dearbom compiled. American cod are
listed as "Potential tidepool species that have been reported intertidally in Maine waters (but not trapped
in tidepools) or in tidepools in other states".

The paragraph continues by referencing three studies on “diel activity pattems within intertidal habitats”
by Methven and Bajdik 1994, Grant and Brown 1998, and Anderson et al. 2007. However, Methven and
Badjick’s study site was the only of the three conducted in the intertidal zone and the paper makes no
mention of macroalgae or submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). The paragraph concludes by discussing
behavioral studies conducted in the subtidal zone or laboratory, with eelgrass (Zostera marina) as the
SAV component of the study site, or having no SAV component at all.

The Habitat Value of Rockweed section of your letter concludes by discussing and referencing several
studies that have "demonstrated that juvenile cod occur with higher abundances in rocky habitats with
macroalgal coverage versus bare rocky substrates." Generally, this is an accurate assessment ofthe
results, that juvenile cod appear to prefer SAV covered substrates versus bare rocks, but the studies
provide little evidence of juvenile cod utilization of rockweed. Of the four studies that are referenced
here, Cote et al. is the only one having an intertidal study site, but the authors clearly state that “it was
therefore unclear from this study if juvenile Atlantic cod were selecting habitat on the basis of a vertical
relief or structural complexity." Lazzari and Stone investigated habitat use in four shallow water
habitats (eelgrass, Laminaria Zongicruruis (kelp), Phyllophora sp. (algae), and mud/sand) and found that
cod preferred eelgrass over other SAV. ln the discussion section, the paper notes that presence of cod
“occurred more in the Zostera tows." The authors elaborate in the discussion stating "Other published information comparing algae to other vegetated habitats also found them to be less utilized as juvenile
fish habitat."

Upon close inspection, the studies referenced in your letter present compelling information that eelgrass
(Zostera marina) is significant habitat for juvenile cod. However, it is misleading to infer that this
referenced literature supports the claim that rockweed beds are significant habitat to juvenile cod. lt is
important to understand that eelgrass is a seagrass, not a macroalgae. There are significant differences in
habitat, structure, growth, and reproduction between eelgrass and intertidal macroalgae such as
rockweed. Finally, the list of publications in your letter is not comprehensive and omits studies such as
Substrate selection and use of protective cover by juvenile Atlantic cod Gadus morhua in inshore waters
of Newfoundland by Gregory and Anderson, who conclude that "Juvenile cod did not exhibit selection
for substrates with macroalgal cover."

As explained above, the infonnation and analysis included in your letter provides insufficient
justification for the Department to promulgate rulemaking to establish no-harvest rockweed areas for
protection of juvenile Atlantic cod. As with any marine resources issue, I ani always open to
considering new and additional information if you wish to provide it. Thank you for your interest in
Maine’s marine resources.

Patrick C. Keliher

NMFS' References Listed below
 Anderson, J. L., Laurel, B. J., and Brown, J. A. 2007. Diel changes in behaviour and habitat use by age-O Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.) inthe laboratory and field. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 351(I),:267-275. Cote, D., Moulton, S., Frampton, P. C. 8., Scruton,D.A., and McKinley, R. S. 2004. Habitat use and early winter movements by juvenile Atlantic cod in a coastal area of Newfoundland. Journal of Fish Biology 64(3):665-679. Fraser, S., Gotceitas, V., and Brown, J. A. 1996. Interactions between age-classes of Atlantic cod and their distribution among bottom substrates. Canadian Joumal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 53 (2):3 0 5 -3 1 4. Gotceitas, V., and Brown, J. A. 1993. Substrate selection by juvenile Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua): effects of predation risk. Oecologia 93(1): 3l-31. Gotceitas, V., Fraser, S., and Brown, J. A. 1995. Habitat use by juvenile Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in the presence of an actively foraging and non-foraging predator. Marine Biology 123(3):421-430. Gotceitas, V., F¡aser, S., and Brown, J. A.1997. Use of eelgrass beds (Zostera marina)by juvenile Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 54(6):1306-13 19. Grant, S. M., and Brown, J. A. 1998. Nearshore settlement and localized populations of age 0 Atlantic cod(Gadus morhua) in shallow coastal waters of Nervfoundland. Canadian journal of fisheries and aquatic sciences 55(6): l3l7 -1327 . Helfman, G., Collette, B. B., Facey, D.E., and Bowen, B. W. 2009. The diversity of fishes: biology, evolution, and ecology. John V/iley & Sons. Keats, D. W., Steele, D. H., and South, G. R. 1987. The role of fleshy macroalgae in the ecology ofjuvenile cod (Gadus morhua L.) in inshore waters off eastern Newfoundland. Canadian Journal of Zoology 65(1): 49-53. Lindholm, J., P. J. Auster, and L. Kaufman. 1999. Habitat-mediated survivorship ofjuvenile (O-year) Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). Marine Ecology Progress Series 180:247-255. Lindholm, J., P.J. Auster, M. Ruth andL. Kaufman. 2001. Modeling the effects of fishing and implications for the design of marine protected areas:juvenile fish responses to variations in seafloor habitat. Conservation Biology 15:424-437. Linehan, J. E., Gregory, R. S., and Schneider, D. C. 2001. Predation risk of age-O cod (Gadus) relative to depth and substrate in coastal waters. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 263(l):25-44. Lazzari, M. 4., and Stone, B.2.2006. Use of submerged aquatic vegetation as habitat by youngof-the-year epibenthic fishes in shallow Maine nearshore waters. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 69(3): 591-606. Lough, R. G., P. C. Valentine, D. C. Potter, P. J. Auditore, G. R. Bolz, J.D. Neilson, & R. I. Perry. 1989. Ecology and distribution ofjuvenile cod and haddock in relation to sediment type and bottom currents on eastern Georges Bank. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 56:1-12. Methven, D.4., and C. Bajdik. 1994.Temporal variation in size and abundance sfjuvenile Atlantis cod(Gadus morhara) at an inshore site off eastern Newfoundland. Can. 1. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 5l : 78-90. Moring, J. R. 1993. Check list of the tidepool fishes of Maine. Maine Naturalist: 155-160. Ojeda, F. P., and Dearborn, J. H. 1990. Diversity, abundance, and spatial distribution of fishes and crustaceans in the rocky subtidal zone of the Gulf of Maine. Fishery Bulletin S8(2): 403-410. Theodorou, P., Snorrason, S. S., and Ólafsdóuir, G. Á. 2013.Habitat complexity affects how young of the year Atlantic cod Gadus morhua perceive predation threat from older conspecifics. Journal of fish biology 82(6):2lal-2146.