Downeast Maine is home to the two most fishing dependent counties on the east coast of the United States. Not only is fishing so important to these communities, lobster makes up over 80% of the total catch! That makes this area precariously dependent on a single species. What would we need to know to diversify and create a new fishery in Maine?
On Thursday, January 23rd over 40 students from seven coastal Maine high schools presented their application for an innovative supplemental fishery as part of the Eastern Maine Skippers Program. Students are collaborating with researchers from Penobscot East Resource Center and the Department of Marine Resources to engineer a trap-based winter flounder fishery. Since there is not currently a fishery in Maine for winter flounder, students in the program wrote and presented an application to the Department of Marine Resources Advisory Council to obtain a special license that will allow students to trap winter flounder.
The Advisory Council unanimously voted to approve the student's application for a special license. Before voting, council members asked questions of the presenting students and expressed their support for the program. Council member Christopher Weiner, a fisherman from Portland, said "this [program] is the coolest thing…usually I am the youngest person in the room at these meetings." Patrick Keliher, Commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources, noted that the Eastern Maine Skippers Program "is a testament to schools that are recognizing the value of fishing to Maine's communities and economy."
As part of the Eastern Maine Skippers Program Winter Flounder Project, students will:
By investigating the viability of an alternative fishery, students will have an opportunity to learn and practice important skills such as active citizenship, public speaking, interpreting and using data, and applied science and engineering that will prepare them for modern fishing careers as well as post-secondary education. The project will have further application beyond their high school education, however, as students will conduct "real-world" research that fishermen and regulators can use as they seek to sustain the fishing economies which are so important to Downeast communities.
About the Eastern Maine Skippers Program:In 2012, Deer Isle Stonington High School and Penobscot East Resource Center collaborated to create the Eastern Maine Skippers Program. EMSP is a regional program which aims to provide aspiring commercial fishermen in schools from North Haven to Eastport the skills needed to be successful fishermen in a time of rapid environmental and regulatory change. A cohort of over 40 students from Vinalhaven, North Haven, Deer Isle-Stonington, Ellsworth, MDI and Narraguagus High Schools as well as George Stevens Academy remain in their schools and collaborate in the program via technology-based "anytime, anywhere" learning. Students also meet in person 3-4 times per year to participate in events such as meetings with the Department of Marine Resources and the Maine Fishermen’s Forum.
For more information about the Eastern Maine Skippers Program, visit https://sites.google.com/a/dishs.org/msp/eastern-maine-skipper-s-program.
For more information on Penobscot East Resource Center, visit http://www.penobscoteast.org.
For more information about the Maine Department of Marine Resources Advisory Council visit http://www.maine.gov/dmr/council/dmradvisory/index.htm.