Originally published in The Weekly Packet, December 19, 2013
Students learn what it takes to create a new fishery
MMA hosts Eastern Maine Skippers Program
“It’s a pretty important group,” DMR regulations and information officer Kevin Rousseau, above, said of the students involved in the Eastern Maine Skippers Program. On December 9 at Maine Maritime Academy, students attended a day-long workshop on starting an alternative fishery.
by Anne Berleant
“Could you start a winter trap-based fishery for flounder?” asked Deer Isle-Stonington Principal Todd West. “The great thing about that question is that no one knows the answer.”
Students from Deer Isle-Stonington High School and George Stevens Academy took some serious steps toward designing such a fishery on December 9 at Maine Maritime Academy, with help from expert sources.
Students worked with researcher Carla Gunther from Penobscot East Resource Center (PERC), the Maine Department of Marine Resources and science teachers to begin the process of starting a fishery from scratch: learning the habits and habitats of winter flounder, designing a trap, field testing and navigating the DMR to apply for a permit for what would be a new fishery.
“This is amazing,” said GSA’s Dean of Students Libby Rosemeier.
The students joined others from four area high schools, all who are part of the Eastern Maine Skippers Program (EMSP), which began in September.
“It’s a pretty important group,” DMR regulations and information officer Kevin Rousseau said of the students involved in the program. “Anything we can do as a department to help the next generation of fishermen.”
Rousseau said the DMR will walk students through drafting their application for a special license, before students travel to Augusta to apply in person to the DMR Advisory Council in January.
The winter flounder project initially came out of PERC, said Gunther. She worked with DMR staff to develop a curriculum and “the nuts and bolts” of the program.
“I think it’s a good idea for kids to get involved in the fishery business,” said GSA junior Mary Connolly. She attended the day-long event at MMA with an eye towards a future family fishing enterprise.
Lucas Eaton, a junior from Deer Isle-Stonington, plotted navigation lines on a map with fellow student Jared Gove. Both are enrolled in the Marine Pathways Program at DISHS and the EMSP. With plenty of fishing experience behind him, Eaton said he is waiting to learn from the program.
While Eaton rated the program low on a scale of one to 10, Rousseau wants future fishermen to not only fish, but to know and be involved with DMR rulemaking.
“The important part is to link how laws and regulations will affect them as they carry on in their careers as fishermen,” said Rousseau. “My job today is to make the laws and regulations interesting to the students.”
The EMSP can “impress on them the importance of being involved in DMR lawmaking and rulemaking and how important it is to be able to write and speak articulately to make your voice heard,” Rousseau continued.
West agreed. “We can’t come close to what kids’ fathers, grandfathers teach them about how to fish. But some of the other skills…to form adaptable fishermen who can take a seat at the table.”
The Eastern Maine Skippers Program 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, according to a press release.
A cohort of over 40 students from Vinalhaven, North Haven, Deer Isle-Stonington, Blue Hill, Ellsworth, MDI and Narraguagus remain in their schools and collaborate in the program via technology-based learning, and will come together throughout the year for programs—such as the flounder fishery program held at MMA.
“This is their year-long project,” said West.