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DMR Home > Health & Safety > Red Tide Disaster Relief Program

2005 Red Tide Disaster Relief Program

as of January 25, 2007

Background

In 2005, an unusually prolonged and widespread occurrence of the Alexandrium algae responsible for “red tide” shut down much of Maine’s shellfish industry. In response, Congress provided the state of Maine with $2 million in disaster relief aid. For the past 6 months, the Maine Red Tide Disaster Relief Program has worked to determine fair compensation for individuals and businesses impacted by the 2005 Red Tide Event.

The Department of Marine Resources held public meetings in August 2006 to solicit industry input on the Red Tide Relief Program. At the request of industry, the amount of money intended to limit the impact of future red tide events through research and monitoring was reduced, and the direct aid to industry was increased. In the end, $1.6 million of the $2 million received from Congress was allotted as direct industry aid.

Research

The remaining aid will fund two programs designed to decrease the economic impact of future red tide events:

  • Approximately $50,000 will fund a small scale study to determine if wild caught PSP contaminated shellfish can be depurated effectively in a controlled environment.
  • The second project will use $350,000 to expand a very successful fine-scale PSP monitoring program. Such a program was established in Casco Bay in the summer of 2006, and was responsible for more than 11,000 acres of clam flats staying open that would otherwise have been closed during the 2006 red tide season. At the August public meetings, Casco Bay clam harvesters praised the program and asked that it be continued. These funds will allow the continuation of the Casco Bay program, and will expand the program to include Cobscook, Blue Hill, and Frenchman Bays.

Industry Aid

In mid November 2006, applications were sent to individuals and businesses in all sectors potentially eligible for compensation: commercial shellfish harvesters; mussel harvesters; mahogany quahog harvesters; aquaculturists; and primary buyers (dealers). Application deadlines were December 12 (commercial shellfish harvesters) and December 19, 2006 (all other sectors).

Compensation was based on: the total amount of disaster relief available; the number of eligible applicants from each sector; the dependence of each sector upon the resource; the length of time access to the resource was restricted for each sector; the landings data available within each sector; and the geographic flexibility of each sector. All suggestions put forth at the August 2006 public meetings were considered. In the end, the following compensation formulas were adopted:

  • Commercial shellfish harvesters were compensated based on the number of days the town in which they held a municipal license was closed due to red tide in 2005. Harvesters that held a state commercial shellfish harvesting license but no town license were compensated at the base rate of 9 days closure. It should be noted that Maine does not require harvesters to report their landings. As a result, there was no practical way to tie compensation amounts to an individual harvester’s clamming activity.
  • Primary buyers were compensated based on their 2005 reported landings and the length of time their county was closed to the harvesting of affected species. Higher reported landings and longer closures resulted in higher compensation amounts.
  • Aquaculturists were compensated based on the number of days the area in which they held a lease was closed to red tide for the species grown on their lease site. Additional compensation was made available to aquaculturists who could document catastrophic losses as a result of the 2005 Red Tide Event.
  • Mussel harvesters were awarded $5000 for a 2005 mussel drag license and $1000 for a 2005 hand harvesting license. These flat amounts were awarded based on the mobile nature of the fishery, and the fact that mussel harvesters do not report landings.
  • Mahogany quahog harvesters were compensated based on their 2005 reported landings. Compensation was tied to a vessel, and ranged from $1000 to $5000 per vessel. Because of the way the mahogany quahog fishery is licensed, in some cases multiple individuals were eligible for compensation from one vessel. When this occurred, the total compensation due was divided amongst both applicants.

Standard compensation was capped at $6500 per license, and no one applicant could receive more than $13,000 in total (standard and catastrophic) compensation.

Final compensation formulas were developed after 6 months of research, industry discussions, and careful consideration, with the goal of developing the fairest possible way to disburse these funds given the data and resources currently available. If anyone has other specific questions they would like me to address, please contact Togue Brawn.

Final Report

For more details, see the Final Report (PDF format, 11 pages, 68 kb) to the funding agency, September 30, 2007.  The report is in PDF format, and requires Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader software (download here free) to view or print.  If you require an alternate format, please contact Togue Brawn.