Days for shrimping doubled because of slow early catch

Regulators have doubled the number of days for shrimp harvesting because of a weak catch since the start of the season.

Fishermen will be allowed to trawl for shrimp on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays — up from only Mondays and Wednesdays. The extra days, for fishermen from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, will begin Monday.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section voted unanimously Thursday to double the days because of a low catch in the season, which began Jan. 23 for trawlers. Trap fishing began Feb. 5.

In December, Maine’s shrimp season was curtailed by nearly 75 percent after scientists warned that the shrimp population was at risk from overfishing and high water temperatures, which are unfavorable for shrimp.

In the first two weeks of the trawling season, the only period for which the commission had data available, the total shrimp catch was about 163,000 pounds, the commission said.

The catch limit for the season is 1.38 million pounds, down from 5.3 million pounds caught last year. In 2011, a total of 13.3 million pounds of shrimp were harvested.

Last year, Maine accounted for about 90 percent of the shrimp landings in the Gulf of Maine. This season has started differently, the commission said, with more shrimp being caught in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Prosecutors say Bath man admits child porn charges

Federal prosecutors say a Bath man has pleaded guilty to child pornography charges.

Authorities say Joseph Finocchiaro, 61, pleaded guilty Wednesday.

Prosecutors said that in October, investigators executed a search warrant at Finocchiaro’s home and seized several collages made from printed photographs of child pornography. Finocchiaro printed the images from an internet photo-sharing website and assembled them into the collages.

He faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing was not immediately scheduled.

New charter school partners with a high school in China

A charter school that plans to open in Portland in September has formed a relationship with a school in China.

Baxter Academy for Technology and Science, Maine’s third public charter school, has established ties and will begin a long-term cooperative learning agreement with Lanxi No.1 High School in the Province of Zhejiang, China.

The relationship aims to promote program development focused on science, technology, engineering and math, while enhancing mutual understanding and friendship between the two institutions.

Baxter Academy Executive Director John Jaques says the relationship will allow the academy to diversify its science-and-technology-focused curriculum while strengthening intercultural exchange between students, school communities and teachers.

Classes at Baxter Academy for Technology and Science are scheduled to begin Sept. 3.


Fire razes house, kills cats, leaves couple homeless

A couple were left homeless Thursday by a fire that destroyed their home at 24 Mason Drive.

Fire Chief Jason Johnson said Carolyn and Winston Empey were at their home with their grandson when the boy saw flames on an outdoor porch. All three escaped safely, but Johnson said the fire spread quickly to the kitchen area.

By the time firefighters arrived, the fire had leveled the two-story home and melted a plastic shed. Two cats died in the fire, which was reported just after 1 p.m. The Empeys spent Thursday night at a neighbor’s house.

Johnson said the cause of the fire is being investigated by the state Fire Marshal’s Office.

Fire crews remained on the scene until 6:30 p.m.


Woman gets 3-month term in dog-mauls-infant case

A woman who authorities say was passed out drunk when the family dog mauled her infant daughter to death has been sentenced to three months in jail.

Katrina Mitchell of Frankfort was sentenced Wednesday in Waldo Country Superior Court after pleading no contest in December to endangering the welfare of a child.

Authorities say 7-month-old Annabelle Mitchell was fatally mauled by the family’s Rottweiler in April 2011 while Mitchell, 31, was drunk and passed out on a couch. The baby’s father was not home. The dog was euthanized.

WABI-TV reported that Mitchell’s lawyer said it was in the best interests of his client to get the case wrapped up. She was also sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to undergo substance abuse counseling.


Inmates, woman charged with drug-smuggling plot

The Maine Department of Corrections says two inmates and the mother of one of them are facing charges in an alleged plot to smuggle prescription drugs into three prisons.

Officials say Karen Lane of Orono was charged with drug trafficking for allegedly selling her suboxone, used to treat opiate addiction, to inmates and mailing the drugs to inmates’ family members and friends so they could smuggle them into the prisons.

Associate Commissioner Jody Breton said the plot involved the Maine State Prison in Warren, the Maine Correctional Center in Windham and the Charleston Correctional Facility in Charleston.

Two inmates, Christopher Hyson at the Maine Correctional Center and Adam Shawley at the Maine State Prison, were charged for their alleged roles in the scheme. Hyson is Lane’s son.


LePage signs order to start anti-domestic violence unit

As promised in his State of the State speech, Gov. Paul LePage has signed an executive order establishing a task force to address domestic violence in Maine.

LePage says the task force will look for ways to ensure that existing laws and court orders are enforced effectively to keep weapons away from domestic abusers.

He signed the order a day after Tuesday’s State of the State address and released details Thursday.

The task force will review existing laws and practices to ensure that court-issued protection from abuse orders are effective in protecting victims. The governor says he’s not interested in laws that infringe upon the ability of law-abiding citizens to own guns.

New transmission line to boost reliability, CMP says

Central Maine Power Co. began work this week on a new electric transmission line between Portland and Westbrook.

The $3 million project will replace an existing three-and-a-half-mile line between substations near Morrill’s Corner in Portland and near Prides Corner in Westbrook. The work is part of CMP’s plan to spend nearly $400 million in 2013 to expand and modernize its system.

CMP’s John Carroll says some of the equipment being replaced dates back to the 1920s. He says the new line will ensure continued reliability.

The new line will be put up in the existing corridor, using slightly taller wood poles and higher capacity conductors. The line will continue to operate at 34,500 volts, but it’s designed to operate at higher voltage if more capacity is needed later.

Casino gets building permit to replace deficient one

The state Department of Environmental Protection has reissued a construction permit to the Oxford Casino, six months after Kennebec County Superior Court found that the state had violated its own permitting rules in granting a permit in 2011.

The Androscoggin River Alliance and several abutters argued that the state was required to consider all three phases of the proposed casino project when issuing the permit, but only considered Phase I — the 65,000-square-foot casino and parking lot.

The court agreed.

The Sun Journal reported that the newly reviewed land use and construction permit was signed by DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho on Tuesday.

Casino developers want to expand the gambling facility, and add parking, restaurants, a spa, a pool, a conference center, an RV Park and a skating rink.

Coalition of 26 groups sets priorities for environment

A coalition representing diverse groups is presenting its environmental agenda.

The Environmental Priorities Coalition listed four priorities during a news conference in the State House on Thursday. Its wish list includes protecting water quality from open pit mining pollution, restoration of native alewives to the St. Croix River, investments in energy efficiency, and protecting pregnant women and children from toxic chemicals.

Tribal members, parents, clean-energy advocates and registered Maine guides were among those showing support at the State House.

Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition is made up of 26 environmental, conservation and public health organizations claiming more than 100,000 members.

Maureen Drouin, executive director of the Maine Conservation Alliance, says the coalition hopes lawmakers will put aside partisan differences and pass the four bills.

— From staff and news services