Seventeen new fisheries management plans will be created in 2016 by Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, including one for Burbot. I’ll bet a lot of anglers don’t know what a Burbot is! For the record, it’s the fish we call cusk.
A 15 member Fisheries Steering Committee has been selected to assist DIF&W in this ambitious task, and judging from the information committee members received from DIF&W and just after the first meeting, I’d say this is almost a full-time job. In addition to a thorough “Operational Charter” that outlines the planning process, DIF&W staffer Nate Webb gave Steering Committee members Montana’s fisheries management plan (478 pages), Idaho’s fisheries management plan (367 pages), a Hunter Angler Market Report by Maine Tourism and DIF&W (128 pages), and a Fishing Participation and Economic Report by Maine Tourism and DIF&W (36 pages).
In addition to all of that, Committee members were expected to read all of the current management plans for each species. The Burbot plan alone is 26 pages long.
DIF&W began creating comprehensive management plans in 1968. After a review of the process conducted over the last 2 years, changes were made to “make the plans more responsive to public desires and more adaptable to emerging scientific information.” They are particularly focused this year on “new opportunities to engage with the public more broadly during the development of management plans.”
The agency will use a number of methods to engage the public and collect opinions, including a contract with Mark Duda and Responsive Management, the national company that is also working with DIF&W on new big game management plans and an initiative to improve communications and marketing at the agency. I’ve been and will continue to report to you on those projects. DIF&W also recently received the results of a survey conducted by Market Decisions of Portland, which presented the results to the agency a couple of weeks ago. However, DIF&W is not ready to make that information public. I’ve asked to receive the survey results, asap, and will give you a report on them.
DIF&W hopes to have new species management plans finished by the end of 2016. The Steering Committee is charged with ensuring:
- The plan is built on a foundation of sound scientific principles and is feasible;
- The plan recognizes that the public has a genuine stake in the plan – fisheries resources belong to the public and is held in the public trust;
- The plan is developed in an open, transparent, and inclusive process that encourages and facilitates the involvement of the public.
Steering Committee members have also been informed that their decisions “are advisory and represent recommendations” to DIF&W. Commissioner Chandler Woodcock has final approval authority for all plans.