Maine Group to Determine Rockweed Harvesting Areas

Maine Group to Determine Rockweed Harvesting Areas
Rockweed, Photo/New England Boating

Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher has appointed members of the Rockweed Working Group, which will determine criteria for ecologically sensitive areas that should be closed to rockweed harvesting on the Maine coast.

The group consists of scientists and others with expertise in relevant issues outlined last year by the team that developed the statewide management plan for rockweed.

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

Members of the Working Group include Dr. Brian Beal, Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Maine, Machias. Dr. Beal has published numerous peer-reviewed studies on marine organisms including clams, lobster, quahogs, eelgrass, kelp, rockweed and scallops. Dr. Beal was also a member of the rockweed Plan Development Team (PDT).

Also on the Working Group is Dr. Jim Gilbert, a retired Professor of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Maine. Dr. Gilbert is best known for marine mammal research, having 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. Dr. Gilbert has also authored or co-authored peer-reviewed publications on marine mammals, seabirds and other sea life.

Dave Preston, an expert in the area of mechanical harvesting is also among the Working Group members. Preston is employed by North American Kelp in Waldoboro where his responsibilities include quality control, organic certification, and harvester management. Preston is a current member of the Maine Seaweed Council and served on the rockweed PDT.

Nancy Sferra, the Director of Science and Stewardship at The Nature Conservancy will also serve on the Working Group. A former PDT member, Sferra brings expertise in wildlife biology and land conservation experience to the Working Group. Prior to becoming the Director of Science and Stewardship, Nancy served as the Southern Maine Preserves Manager and Land Steward for The Nature Conservancy.

Lindsay Tudor, a Wildlife Biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will fill the final spot on the Working Group. Tudor is the current non-game bird specialist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife focusing on conservation planning, inventory, research, and outreach for shorebirds, terns and harlequin ducks. Tudor has conducted research on birds throughout Maine and has co-authored two peer-reviewed publications on shorebirds.

The Department solicited nominations for the Working Group in July, seeking individuals with expertise not only in rockweed harvesting and ecology, but also in areas relevant to discussion of protection for sensitive wildlife areas and conserved lands.

The Working Group was recommended by the rockweed fishery management PDT as a way to create guidelines for establishing areas along Maine’s coast that are closed to harvesting rockweed.

The rockweed PDT worked last year on the first fishery management plan (FMP) authorized by the legislature. Management plans will also be developed for lobster and other marine resources. FMPs will serve as guidance documents that include such things as management goals and objectives, biological information, a description of the fishery, stock status, current management measures, recommendations to achieve goals, current research and future research needs, and an ecosystem based characterization of the resource.

The Working Group will likely hold its first meeting in late September 2014 and will conduct monthly meetings through January 15, 2015 when it will present a report to the Marine Resources Committee. Notices of the meetings will be published in the media and on the Maine Department of Marine Resources website. Each meeting will provide an opportunity for public input and will feature outside experts on issues including shorebirds and marine mammals.

A copy of the rockweed Fishery Management Plan and other related information can be found on the Department of Marine Resources website HERE. For more information on the rockweed Working Group, contact DMR Policy Development Specialist Chris Vonderweidt at 624-6558.