(Pete, I have a PDF that has the attachments, but don't know how to post it. I'll email to you in case you can put it up.)
Definitely not too late to email comments. Send them to the Committee Clerk and she can forward to all the members.Julia.Brown@Legislature.Maine.gov
Senator Cyrway, Representative Duchesne, and members of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee:
My name is Jeff Reardon, I live in Manchester, and I am providing testimony today on behalf of the Maine Council of Trout Unlimited, in support of LD 1018, An Act to Prohibit Fish Stocking or Using Live Fish as Bait in Tributaries to State Heritage Fish Waters. Trout Unlimited (TU) is a national conservation organization whose mission is to conserve, protect and restore North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. We have 5 active chapters and about 1800 members in Maine.
We want to thank Russell Black and others who worked to bring this important legislation to you. We strongly support its passage as an important step towards comprehensive protection of the lower 48’s largest and most intact wild trout resource. Maine’s “Heritage Water” designation protects the last significant lake and pond populations of native brook trout—97% of them-- and 100% of the Lower 48’s native populations of landlocked Arctic charr. These are ecological resources of national significance and they make Maine a unique angling destination. Anybody can catch a stocked rainbow trout--even in a roadside ditch in New Jersey--if they check online and know when the stocking truck will show up. The Heritage waters are special, and people will travel far and spend good money to fish them. I’ve attached an article published Tuesday in the online journal HATCH by a young friend who came to Maine to borrow a couple of my remote pond canoes last summer. I guarantee you he will be back, he’ll bring some friends, and he’ll keep writing about what makes Maine special. It’s critical for both Maine’s unique brook trout heritage and our natural resource based economy that we give our brook trout the protection they deserve.
A little history
. The Heritage Ponds program was created by legislation passed out of this committee in 2005, sponsored by then Senator Woodcock, and amended several times since, most recently in 2013, to protect Maine waters that (1) were ponds; (2) contain eastern brook trout and/or Arctic charr; and (3) have never been stocked according to any reliable records OR according to reliable historical records have not been stocked for at least 25 years. This Heritage list changes from year to year as new pond populations are documented or as ponds reach the 25 year threshold and get added. This Committee receives an annual report updating the list of Heritage waters. You got the last one on Feb. 9, 2016, containing 558 lakes and ponds. Three waters were added via rulemaking last fall, bringing the total to 561.
There are two restrictions on Heritage Waters, both intended to protect them from known threats. First, the Department may not stock them. Second, they must have regulations that prevent the use of LIVE bait FISH. They may be restricted to Fly Fishing Only or Artificial Lures Only regulations, but many of them have a less restrictive No Live Fish as Bait regulation, making use of worms or DEAD bait fish legal, but prohibiting use or possession of LIVE bait FISH. I’ve attached the relevant statutory sections.
The Heritage Waters and policy to protect them are now an integral part of the Department’s brook trout management, as outlined in a report by the Department presented to you in 2014 with a Proposed Plan for Managing State Heritage Fish Waters (Proposed Plan). I encourage you each to get a copy. There is a lot there, but it is very important information as background. Much of the rest of my testimony is based on information in that report.Why No Stocking?
Almost everywhere from Maine to Georgia, brook trout populations are highly fragmented by introduction of non-native brown trout and rainbow trout, or genetically compromised by stocking brook trout over healthy wild populations. Maine is unique in having entire watersheds where almost no stocking has occurred. We have no reason to stock over thriving wild brook trout, and doing so carries unacceptable genetic and disease risks. The Department’s Proposed Plan explains the rationale and policy regarding stocking WITHIN Heritage Waters. They don’t do it, for good reasons. But fish can swim, and we do not yet have policy to prevent stocking in tributaries, which will have INDIRECT, but identical, impacts on the downstream Heritage Ponds. LD 1018 adds this protection.Why No Live Fish As Bait?
The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture Report identifies five “disturbances” that impact brook trout populations in Maine ponds. Four of them are non-native fish. The state’s Proposed Plan identifies four “threats to brook trout in Maine”, two of which are “non-native fish” and “baitfish introductions”. Maine law already makes bucket stocking illegal, but inadvertent introductions of baitfish have been identified as a threat to Maine brook trout waters for nearly 70 years. I’ve attached two older “Maine Lake Surveys”, one from 1959 and one from 1976, highlighting concern about introduction of baitfish that would compete with brook trout, and identifying regulations—Fly Fishing Only or No Live Fish as Bait—to prevent them. You can go to the Department’s website and download literally hundreds of similar reports for wild brook trout waters. We’ve known the problem for a long time. We’ve just never dealt with it comprehensively. Again, fish can swim, and fish that go into tributaries will end up downstream in the pond. LD 1018 closes a loophole and provides additional protection to these valuable and sensitive waters. Importantly, LD 1018 does NOT require banning use of worms, dead fish, or other baits that can’t survive and compete with brook trout. And, because very few Maine anglers use live fish as bait on streams, and because most of these streams are small, remote, and rarely fished, the application of the rule to tributaries is unlikely to impact many anglers. It will not affect any lakes or ponds that currently allow ice fishing or open water fishing with live bait. I have tracked the rulemaking process for the addition of more than 20 waters to the Heritage list, and I do not believe the Department has ever received a single comment in opposition to adding waters to the list or to adding No Live Fish as Bait regulations. Matching regulations on these tributaries should be no different.
Conclusion TU strongly supports LD 1018, and urges you to support its passage. It does not address every threat to Heritage Waters. We still have concerns about stocking in upstream ponds and about harvest and storage of bait fish in these watersheds. As we’ve said before, we believe the Department should look at whether “No Live Fish as Bait” makes sense as general law for some parts of the state. These are more complicated issues that need to be fully vetted, and we look forward to working with the Department, other stakeholders, and perhaps this Committee on those in the future. In the meantime, LD 1018 is simple and we’d like to see it adopted quickly. That will be a big step from where we are today.
1. “Dreaming Maine”. Matt Reilly, March 28, 2017. From Hatch Magazine. http://www.hatchmag.com/articles/dreaming-maine/7714348
2. State Heritage Fish Waters Statutory Language. Copied and Pasted from http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/s ... 12461.html
3. Eastern Brook Trout: Status and Threats. 2006. Report of the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture. I have attached pages 34 and 35 of the report, addressing Maine Lakes and Ponds. Full report available here: http://easternbrooktrout.org/reports/ea ... reats/view
4. MDIFW Pond Surveys: Slaughter Pond (1959); Big Minister Pond (1976). Can be downloaded, along with MANY more, here: http://www.state.me.us/IFW/fishing/lake ... /index.htm
Suggested additional materials—not attached--for Work Session. I can provide these if you need them, but I think they should be in the Committee’s files.
1. Report back to Legislature On Public Law 2013 Chapter 358, Section 8. Proposed Plan for Managing State Heritage Fish Waters Presented by: Dana DeGraaf, Fisheries Biologist 126th Legislature – Second Session. Link: https://www1.maine.gov/IFW/fishing/pdfs ... 112014.pdf
2. Feb 9, 2016 Report on Maine’s Heritage Fish Waters List.
3. Is there an updated 2017 Heritage Fish Waters List?