BRUNSWICK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — People living on the shore in Brunswick are still coping with that smell of dead fish. But now a fisherman has kicked off a new controversy by claiming state fishery regulators are actually to blame. Yet state officials say that’s just not true.
The accusation came in an online video posted by Warren Page, who said he is a lobsterman. In the video, he complains about "state quotas" on catching menhaden, better known as pogies.
Page said the system of catch quotas restricts how many fish can be landed per day and per week. He said those quotas force fishermen who have too big a catch in their nets to dump the pogies at sea. By that time, he said, most of the fish are dead and can eventually wash ashore.
"This is the genius you have up at the Statehouse in Maine," he said. "And then when something happens like that they don’t have the foresight to realize, we all told them that, you're gonna have guys dumping fish, they put it off on the fisherman."
The Department of Marine Resources said those complaints are untrue. Maj. Rene Cloutier of the Maine Marine Patrol said the fish kill in Brunswick was "an isolated incident," caused by one fisherman who found his boat could not handle the large number of fish he caught in his purse seine nets.
"What happened," said Cloutier, "is a fisherman went down there, circled way more fish than he had the gear to handle, was unable to get fish into the boat and released the fish and the fish were all dead at that point."
Cloutier said the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission set the overall menhaden quota, along with an individual quota of no more than 120,000 pounds per day, per boat. The state of Maine has said no more than 160,000 pounds can be landed per week. Page’s video claims that system forces fishermen to dump excess fish at sea if they happened to have more than 120,000 pounds that first day.
But Cloutier said he has heard no such complaints from anyone else and does not believe fish are being dumped.
A midcoast fisherman and bait dealer, who asked that his name not be used, told NEWS CENTER he believes some fish are being dumped, and said he thinks pogies are so plentiful on the Maine coast this year that the overall quota needs to be increased. A similar situation happened in parts of the midcoast about 20 years ago.