DMR seeks bids to test shellfish in area closed to lobster fishing

Will also test lobsters caught from Searsport, Islesboro, Castine
By Dan West | Mar 14, 2014

Stockton Springs — The Department of Marine Resources looking for a captain, crew and vessel to help monitor lobsters inside an area of the Penobscot River between Stockton Springs and Verona Island, which was recently closed to fishing due to mercury contamination.

The DMR has released a request for bids detailing some of the testing that will take place in the closed area over the next two years. The winning bidder will be required to bait 50 traps and sample them twice a month after three night soaks. The monthly commitment will be for three days.

The lobsters will be tested for mercury contamination, which was found in a court-ordered study of pollution in the Penobscot River caused by the HoltraChem Plant in Orono. Director of Communications at DMR Jeff Nichols said the initial testing will monitor mercury levels in the shellfish and confirm the Penobscot River Mercury Study findings.

According to court documents, in 2002 Mallinckrodt US LLC was determined to be responsible for the pollution at the contaminated HoltraChem site. It has been ordered to clean up several mercury contaminated landfills on the HoltraChem site, but it has not been determined what it should do about waters around that plant, which are under federal jurisdiction.

Following the 2002 decision, the court ordered the formation of a panel to study mercury contamination in marine life in the waters around the HoltraChem plant. That study was completed in 2013, and a trial will be held May 7 to determine what, if any, remedation should be done on the Penobscot River.

Nichols said the DMR will also be purchasing lobsters from adjacent areas, specifically around Sears Island, Islesboro and Castine. Since lobsters move about on the ocean floor, they can cross in and out of a closed area. Nichols said the testing will be done quarterly to "get a better understanding of the changes that can occur over different seasons."

Nichols said the state is confident in the closure boundary it set, but said the length of that closure and any possible increase in the area closed "will all hinge on what the study finds."

Bids for testing lobsters within the closed area are due March 15.

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