According to the Web site wordorigins.org, “Scuttlebutt is an early 19th century nautical term for an open cask of water kept on deck for use by the crew. The term comes from scuttle – to cut a hole in – and butt – a large cask. Sailors would gather about the cask and trade stories and gossip, much like modern office workers do at the water cooler or coffee pot. By the turn of the 20th century, American sailors began using the term scuttlebutt to refer to these sea stories and gossip. Eventually the term became associated with any gossip or rumor.”

Lobster Advisory Council sets April agenda

HALLOWELL — The next meeting of the Lobster Advisory Council will take place Thursday, April 1 at 1 p.m. at the Natural Resources Service Center in Hallowell.

Council members will discuss the health risks of lobster bait and hear updates on river herring and sinking groundline. Other items on the LAC agenda include a statewide referendum on days at sea, a review of lobster rules and laws, and a discussion of a possible three-year mandatory lobster license suspension for certain offenses.

For more information visit maine.gov/dmr.

House passes legislation to protect shellfish industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives acted on March 12 to pass the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act, sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine.

More than 2,000 harvesters and dealers in Maine depend on access to healthy shellfish beds to make their living and support their families, bringing $50 million to coastal communities every year, according to a press release form Pingree’s office. Shellfish are also an important component of the state’s tourism industry.

Last summer, a severe red tide closed 98 percent of the state’s shellfish beds, with similar outbreaks in 2005 and 2008. Predictions for 2010 are that it may be an even worse year for Maine. A recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report found that the cysts causing red tide are now at some of the highest levels ever measured.

The legislation will establish a national strategy to address harmful algae blooms, coordinate state and federal efforts, and identify research priorities. Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe is the author of companion legislation in the Senate.

Right whales return off Cape

PROVINCETOWN — The Maine Lobstermen’s Association reported March 18 that at least two dozen North Atlantic right whales were spotted off the coast of Cape Cod at the start of their annual feeding season in the Northeast.

The story in the association’s weekly online newsletter quoted a Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies scientist.

Aerial surveys and boat sightings by the center’s research and monitoring teams have indicated that the rare mammals have traveled in and out of Cape Cod Bay, a critical habitat. The whales have so far not “anchored in the inner bay,” said Charles “Stormy” Mayo, who directs a right whale habitat study for the center.

Meanwhile, BBC News reported Feb. 17 that right whales may not have fallen victim to extensive whaling as previously supposed.

According to the BBC report, a DNA bone study of ancient whale bones suggests that the population of northern right whales has been small for centuries.

“This is a big surprise given what was previously thought about the species,” said Brenna McLeod, previously at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, who has published the latest study in the journal Conservation Genetics.

Fisheries choose third-party certification

BOSTON — The Maine Lobstermen’s Association also reported that the U.S. Atlantic sea scallop dredge fishery is entering full assessment in the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification program. The announcement was made at the International Boston Seafood Show on March 15.

“The fishery operating in the exclusive economic zone of the United States of America offshore from Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, will be assessed against the MSC standard and, if successful, its products will be eligible to bear the MSC ecolabel recognizing products from well-managed and sustainable sources.” the MLA report said.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors recently announced that Global Trust Certification Ltd. has been chosen to perform an independent, third-party certification of Alaska’s fisheries management systems.

Under the agreed model, each major Alaska fishery will be assessed for conformance to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the FAO Guidelines for Ecolabelling Fishery Products.

States schedule hearings on Atlantic sea herring

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts have scheduled hearings to gather public comment on Draft Addenda II and III to Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Sea Herring.

Fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on the draft addenda, either by attending public hearings or providing written comments. The draft addenda is available via the commission’s Web site at asmfc.org under breaking news or by contacting the commission at 202-289-6400. Public comment will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 16 and should be forwarded to Christopher Vonderweidt, FMP coordinator, 1444 Eye Street, NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, DC 20005.

Winterport resident catalogs vessels built along Penobscot

WINTERPORT — Winterport resident and Maine Coastal News publisher Jon Johansen has begun a project to document every ship ever built along the shores of the Penobscot River. As reported by the Associated Press March 15, Johansen is attempting to create a database of virtually every vessel built in the United States.

“So far, the maritime history buff says he has catalogued more than 50,000 vessels — from 20-foot lobster boats to modern-day warships,” the AP report stated.

Send scuttlebutt to Herald Gazette reporter Shlomit Auciello at sauciello@villagesoup.com or call 207-236-8511.