Numerous fisheries in Frenchman Bay have experienced declines over the last 20 years. As one fishery fails, attention shifts to the next species that can be of service in supporting local economies. With no strategy in place to protect all species, the next fishery in line often experiences the same fate as the one before it. What is the solution?
Additional regulation alone will not restore declining fisheries or protect the remaining fisheries, such as lobster and mussel. Key to the recovery of depleted fish stocks and survival of all marine species is intact ocean habitat, especially the essential near-shore nurseries in our coves and bays. Near-shore ocean habitats will have to be protected so depleted fish stocks can recover. Where habitats have been significantly degraded, restoration will be necessary.
There are many obstacles to determining where habitat has been most significantly disrupted and what the possible causes and solutions may be. One obstacle is the lack of long-term environmental assessments of near shore ocean habitats. A second obstacle is the lack of local buy-in to the need for ocean conservation. The MDI Biological Laboratory is working to overcome both of these obstacles by initiating marine ecology and habitat restoration studies in Frenchman Bay and developing a process for local involvement in the conservation of Frenchman Bay.
We have taken a leadership role in creating the Frenchman Bay Partners, a group of stakeholders that includes fishermen, aquaculture industry representatives, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and local businesses. We have worked together to create a conservation action plan for Frenchman Bay. Our process may serve as a model throughout the state of Maine and beyond.
Support for the stakeholder process in Frenchman Bay has come from the Alex C. Walker Foundation and the Maine Coastal Program. All the work of the Frenchman Bay Partners can be found at www.frenchmanbaypartners.org.