Newly minted senator to serve on marine committee

AUGUSTA — Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville, was appointed Feb. 29 to serve on the Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources for the remainder of the 125th Maine State Legislature. The Marine Resources Committee is responsible for oversight of the Department of Marine Resources and all legislation concerning commercial marine fisheries management, licensing and enforcement; marine fish species; shellfish; and aquaculture.

Johnson lives in Somerville and represents Senate District 20, which includes most of Lincoln County and the neighboring communities of Friendship, Washington and Windsor.  He was recently elected to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Sen. David Trahan.

Navy awards BIW destroyer contract

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Navy has awarded Bath Iron Works a $662,927,172 contract for construction of the next DDG-51, known as DDG-116.  This ship was competitively awarded to BIW, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, last year.

According to the website at wikipedia.org, the Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers is the U.S. Navy’s first class of destroyer built around the Aegis Combat System and the SPY-1D multi-function phased array radar. The class is named for Admiral Arleigh “31-Knot” Burke, the most famous American destroyer officer of World War II, and later chief of naval operations.

With an overall length of 510 feet, displacement of 9,200 tons, and weaponry including over 90 missiles, the Arleigh Burke-class ships are larger and more heavily armed than most previous ships classified as guided missile cruisers.

Federal energy managers identify wind site off New England coast

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced March 1 that it has completed an important step in identifying a Wind Energy Area off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts under the Department of the Interior’s Smart from the Start wind energy initiative. The Wind Energy Area, which is within an area of mutual interest to Rhode Island and Massachusetts, is one of several areas along the Atlantic coast with high wind potential that BOEM is evaluating for commercial wind leasing.

The Wind Energy Area comprises approximately 209,585 acres within the area of mutual interest identified by Rhode Island and Massachusetts in 2010. Based on an extensive consultation process, BOEM narrowed the focus of the Wind Energy Area by excluding commercially important fishing grounds from the area. Other key considerations that will be further analyzed in the environmental assessment include the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, vessel traffic, and visual and cultural resources.

In November 2010, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar launched the Smart from the Start wind energy initiative for the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf to facilitate the siting, leasing and construction of new projects.

Additional information on the Wind Energy Area, including a map, is available at boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/State-Activities/Rhode-Island.aspx.

Deadline extended for groundfish comments

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. — The New England Fishery Management Council has extended the deadline for scoping comments on Amendment 18 to the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery Management Plan, from March 1 to April 30.

The council agreed to hold scoping hearings based on concerns related to maintaining the diverse makeup of the groundfish fleet in the Northeast, as well as an interest in preserving active and thriving fishing ports.

If adopted, measures could impose limits on the amount of fish allocations that individuals or groups of individuals may control.

To that end, the council announced its intent to gather information and ask for suggestions about the range of issues that could be addressed by the council and possibly included in its Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Management Plan.

Written comments on Amendment 18 must be received by 5 p.m. on April 30, and may be mailed to the council office at 50 Water St., Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950; faxed to 978-465-3116; or emailed to groundfish.amendment18@noaa.gov with the following information in the subject line: Groundfish Amendment 18 scoping comments.

Sea chanteys at Maine Maritime Academy

CASTINE — The Maine Maritime Academy Department of Arts and Science will host a concert of nautical songs and sea chanteys on Saturday, March 17 at noon in the Harborview Room of the Alfond Student Center on the college campus.

Featuring From Away DownEast, the eastern-most sea chantey group in the United States, the concert, titled Songs of Irish Sailors, will provide a way for the entire community to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The concert will also promote an upcoming maritime music course to be taught by group member Stephen Sanfilippo at MMA in fall 2012.

The St. Patrick’s Day concert will include songs from the time when a great number of the men at sea on British and American ships were Irish and Irish-American. These men sang to set work rhythms with chanteys and to pass time and express their feelings through both raucous and sentimental songs. They sang on transatlantic packet ships, men-of-war, whale ships, and emigrant ships, as well as in pubs ashore as dock and canal workers. From Away DownEast is made up of Washington County musicians Stephen Sanfilippo, Susan Sanfilippo and Jim Sherman. The performance is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

Harold Burnham to speak at Penobscot Marine Museum

SEARSPORT — Harold Burnham, a 14th-generation shipwright from Essex, Mass., will discuss the construction of the pinky schooner Ardelle in a talk at Penobscot Marine Museum. Burnham’s presentation will be illustrated with photographs by Dan Tobyne, author and photographer of “Thoreau’s Maine Woods,” published by Down East Books. The free event will be in the museum’s Stephen Phillips Memorial Library on Saturday, March 31 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Ardelle is an authentic wooden pinky schooner, completed in 2011 to run day trips and private charters out of Essex. Pinkies – so-called for their distinctive, high pointed or “pink” stern – were a common New England boat type used for commercial fishing in the 19th century. Burnham, whose family has run shipyards in Essex since 1819, designed Ardelle using as a model the pinky Maine, built in 1845 by Ebenezer Burnham. Harold Burnham and his volunteer shipyard crew of friends and family built the 55-foot, 45-ton vessel using local woods from a nearby tree company as well as components salvaged from a replica of the pinky Maine built by the Apprenticeshop of Bath in the early 1980s.

Admission to Building the Schooner Ardelle: An Evening with Shipwright Harold Burnham is free, and refreshments will be served. Penobscot Marine Museum’s Stephen Phillips Memorial Library is at 11 Church St. in Searsport.

For more information, visit the website at penobscotmarinemuseum.org or call 548-2529.

Federal lobster licenses may be capped

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Feb. 29 article by Craig Idlebrook in Working Waterfront said a final decision on regulations limiting access to lobster fishing in federal waters in the Gulf of Maine is expected this spring.

New rules are likely to restrict lobstering in federal waters in the Gulf of Maine to those who have been actively catching lobster during a recent four-year period. The article said it is not expected to change access for most fishermen with federal permits in Maine, but could prevent overtaxing the lobster resource in the gulf.

The proposed rule would restrict access to the Area 1 federal lobster fishery to those who held federal tags for the fishery between 2004 and 2008, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fishery management specialist Peter Burns. The National Marine Fishery Service wants to keep access at 2008 levels, but officials expanded the criteria to incorporate 2004 to 2007 fishing records to include fishermen who may have had to take 2008 off.

Federal fishing permits currently are transferable between management areas.

While lobster numbers are holding steady in the Gulf of Maine, the population may not be strong enough to support more fishermen, Burns said.

Idlebrook wrote that it is still unclear what the ramifications of such a switch in regulations would be for Maine lobstermen, for whom lobstering in federal waters makes up a small but important part of the lobster industry. Many lobstermen move to federal waters in the winter.

According to Downeast Lobstermen’s Association Treasurer Mike Dassatt, the shift could have major unintended consequences. He said more and more fishermen have crowded into the gulf as other lobster fisheries fail. Under federal permitting rules, out-of-staters can fish in federal waters off the Maine Coast, Dassatt said.

“Dassatt fears that restricting federal permits would only drive up the asking price for those permits by tens of thousands of dollars and make the permits unreachable to most entry-level lobstermen,” wrote Idlebrook. Dassatt said that would leave the field accessible only to large-scale lobstering operations, which might result in higher lobster mortality in the gulf.

According to the website wordorigins.org, “Scuttlebutt is an early 19th century nautical term for an open cask of water kept on deck for use by the crew. The term comes from scuttle — to cut a hole in — and butt — a large cask. Sailors would gather about the cask and trade stories and gossip, much like modern office workers do at the water cooler or coffee pot. By the turn of the 20th century, American sailors began using the term scuttlebutt to refer to these sea stories and gossip. Eventually the term became associated with any gossip or rumor.”

Send scuttlebutt to Gazette reporter Shlomit Auciello at sauciello@villagesoup.com or call 207-236-8511.