That has happened all too often on Cobscook Bay, especially around Fall’s Island. Since December 2008, for example, there have been seven fishing-related deaths and at least one near miss that could easily have cost three more lives.
For Captain Bob Peacock, Eastport harbor pilot who also chairs the City Council, these statistics were personal.
“I lost too many friends and former [R.J. Peacock Canning] employees on these vessels,” Peacock says. And he decided to do something about it.
The result is a series of chartlets, now available to fishermen, showing in vivid detail hazards on the bottom of Cobscook Bay. The maps were produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Navigational Response Team 5. And Peacock noted that the chartlets were ready before the beginning of urchin season on October 4 and the scallop season which begins on December 15.
Both NOAA and Peacock emphasized, however, that the charlets are not to be used for navigation.
“We were very lucky to get NOAA to send a side scan Sonar team here in early November, 2009 to do a search for wrecks around Falls Island,” Peacock says. “The NOAA MIST team of two NOAA officers and two top NOAA scientists were successful in locating a wreck in the three days we had available using NOAA personnel and equipment on Department of Marine Resources and Peacock Canning boats,” Peacock says. “All this was a result of DMR Marine Patrol Officer David Dent asking for help with survey work. Dave knew that over my career I had worked with the Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, NOAA, and the New England Aquarium on various surveys and navigational issues, and asked if we could get some sophisticated equipment to determine what was happening in the boat losses in Cobscook Bay.”
Peacock gave a presentation to NOAA’s annual Hydrographic Services Review Panel in Providence, R.I. on May 5.
Within a week NOAA decided to send NRT 5 to Eastport for the summer and fall to conduct a full multi beam survey that was scheduled to continue until approximately November 1.
Peacock said that the NOAA NRT 5 led by Scientist Nick Forfinski brought a 28-foot survey boat, rented office space, dock space and a house.
He added, “The team worked extremely hard to obtain the data necessary to update the charts, which takes several years of reviewing and proving the data. The NRT 5 team has really participated in the community in Lubec and Eastport in addition to their very important work.”
“NOAA’s response with input from Senator Snowe’s office was immediate and exactly what was needed.” Peacock says. “During the NOAA survey in November ’09 it was determined that the chart showed that the area had not been surveyed since the 1800s.”
Peacock noted, “We believe that data was included on the chart from a Canadian survey in 1983 but this has not been noted on the charts. What is certain is that the area has never been surveyed with differential GPS for surface position while using multi beam sonar to show exactly what the bottom features (literally every rock) in amazing detail.”
In a note of thanks Peacock said, “The bottom images and data that are being produced are, in my opinion, nothing short of amazing and critical for the safety of our fishing community. In addition to our Senators and their staff’s help, the DMR leadership and MPO Dave Dent, NOAA Captain John Lowell, NOAA Commander Larry Krepp, and Howard Danley have really showed that government can work quickly and well and they all really care about helping the fishing community.”
He concluded, “I pray that these efforts lead to a safe and prosperous urchin and scallop dragging season.”