Marine conservation and management in Maine

Marine conservation and management in Maine

Maine’s Department of Marine Resources, now with four Bureaus (Administration, Marine Development, Marine Sciences, and Marine Patrol), began in 1867 with the establishment of Commissioners of Fisheries. In 1895, the agency was renamed Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Game and a new Commissioner of Sea and Shore Fisheries was authorized, representing the first clear distinction between inland and coastal natural resources. In 1917, the Commissioner was replaced by a Commission of Sea and Shore Fisheries, and in 1931, the Commission became the Department of Sea and Shore Fisheries and the post of Commissioner was reestablished.

Both the Advisory Council of the Department of Sea and Shore Fisheries and the Atlantic Sea Run Salmon Commission were created in 1947. The State Government reorganization legislation of 1973, the 106th Legislature established the Department of Marine Resources, along with an expanded Marine Resources Advisory Council. Additional duties and responsibilities were assigned to the agency and its Council, along with those which previously were the responsibility of the Department of Sea and Shore Fisheries and its Advisory Council. A new nine-member Lobster Advisory Council was established by the Legislature to assist the Commissioner on matters related to the lobster industry.

The Department of Marine Resources was established to conserve and develop marine and estuarine resources of the State of Maine by conducting and sponsoring scientific research, promoting and developing the Maine commercial fishing industry, and by advising agencies of government concerned with development or activity m coastal waters.

The Advisory Council to Marine Resources was established on 13 August 1947 with the broad responsibility to provide advice to the Commissioner on policy matters affecting the fishing industry and to outline the problems and needs of the segments of the industry they represent. In addition, certain specific duties were established by law in 1973 including the approval of aquaculture lease permits, changes in fishing regulations, and related matters. The Bureau of Marine Development was created in 1957 and the common theme for all of its divisions and programs is the development of Maine’s marine fisheries industries. This theme is addressed, for example, through efforts in restoring lost fish runs (e.g., alewives), groundfish industry expansion, technical gear and fishing technique development, a variety of technical services to seafood processors, and market development through trade and consumer education and assistance. The Bureau is comprised of five major divisions each of which is responsible for several programs: Anadromous Fish, Economic Development, Fisheries Technology Services, industry Services, and Marketing. The Bureau’s activities involve a multitude of issues ranging from marine science to marine education to market analysis.

The Bureau of Marine Patrol, established in 1978 but formerly known as the Coastal Warden Service, is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the State and was established to protect, manage, and conserve the renewable marine resources within the territorial limits of the State of Maine. Over the years the Legislature has expanded the areas of responsibility to the enforcement of other laws and regulations of the State of Maine.

The Wardens Service, so named in 1947, was originally established as “Fish Wardens” in 1843, who were appointed by the Governor and Council until 1917 when the appointment authority was transferred to the Commissioner of Sea and Shore Fisheries. The Bureau has been an integral segment of the Department throughout its existence. Within the span of two decades the scope of the Bureau’s responsibilities have been widened to include many new areas of activity which fall outside the traditional needs of the fishing industry and the marine environment.

Some of the areas of responsibility of the Bureau include, under Federal laws, the Bluefin Tuna Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Extended Fisheries Jurisdiction Management and Conservation Act (200-mile limit), and cooperation with various Federal law enforcement agencies. Under State law, other enforcement responsibilities include criminal law activities, Boating Registration and Safety laws, search and rescue, and environmental laws.

The Bureau of Marine Sciences was established administratively in 1946 to provide a scientific basis for the rational use of the marine and estuarine resources of the State of Maine. It is the oldest continuously operating marine research agency in the Gulf of Maine. The primary responsibilities of the Bureau are to: Conduct and sponsor scientific research, develop management programs for the marine and estuarine species under the jurisdiction of the state, provide advisory services to agencies of state, Federal, and local government; provide information and technical assistance to all segments of Maine’s commercial and recreational fishing industry, and provide information and education services to the public. This article was prepared from materials supplied by the Maine Department of Marine Resources; views or opinions expressed or implied do not necessarily reflect the position of the Department of the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.

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