Maine Lobstermen’s Association Board of Directors: Jason Joyce, Swan’s Island, & Bob Baines, Spruce Head

First published in the MLA Newsletter, May, 2012

Jason Joyce and a large halibut. Photo by Craig O'Connell

“It’s really all about strength in numbers,” Swan’s Island lobsterman Jason Joyce says about the MLA. “The more members we have the more influence we have. The stronger the MLA is as an association, the more issues we can tackle.”  Joyce was nominated to the MLA board in 2002, filling his father Carleton Joyce’s longtime seat as a director. “Dad’s always been a big supporter of the MLA. Always looking for ways conserve the resource, ways to build the brood stock, so I had that [perspective] around my whole life” he said about his father.

Joyce, 42, started fishing full time at age 19 in Zone B off Swan’s Island. Whenever there is an opportunity to preserve Maine’s fisheries, he’s game.  For the past three years he has fished using tub trawls as part of a groundfish study with the Penobscot East Resource Center, setting 60,000 hooks each summer. “People say ‘why bother?’” Jason said. “And I say we’re not going to have data on the state of the groundfish industry unless someone goes out and does the research.” Living on an island has certainly influenced his point of view. “Swan’s depends heavily on commercial fishing. In groundfishing, there are a lot of questions. I’d rather see what’s out there than go by hearsay.” He has also signed on to work with the MLA and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute on the acoustic inshore herring study due to start in August. “I’m quite excited,” he said about the upcoming project.

Joyce sees many benefits from being involved with the MLA. “I like being able to talk to other fishermen about what’s going on in their port,” he said. “MLA lets members know about what bills to comment on. If I pick up anything on my radar, I come back and tell others what to be prepared for.”  MLA board meetings keep Joyce up to date on what’s happening with current and proposed fishing regulations. He feels that it’s a constant battle today to ensure that lobstering can be done by traditional means. “The big challenge now is the vertical line issue,” he said. “It’s almost as big as the sinking line rule.”

Jason believes that staying involved with the MLA is a necessity. “Lobstering is my livelihood and has been my family’s livelihood for a long time,” he said. The Joyce family has lived for generations on Swan’s Island; his family roots date back to the early 1800’s. “I’ve been around long enough to realize that the MLA is influential in a lot that helps fishermen.”

Bob Baines. Photo by Doug Cotnoir.

Board Director Bob Baines also makes it a priority to be involved with the MLA. “The MLA speaks on behalf of the industry, whether you’re involved in the association or not. I think it’s important to be a part of that,” he said. Baines was elected to the MLA board of directors in 2005, with support from current Board President, David Cousens and former MLA Executive Director, Pat White. Baines, 56, of Spruce Head, has been fishing Zone D since he was a teenager.

His first experience with the many state and regional bodies involved in the lobster industry came with the Maine Lobster Promotion Council (MLPC) during its evolution in the early 1990’s. After eight years serving on the MLPC Board, he then was elected to the state Lobster Advisory Council (LAC). Baines has been on the LAC for almost a decade now and has been chair of the council for the past five years. As chair of the LAC, he is also involved with the Department of Marine Resources Advisory Council. Baines also holds a seat on the Lobster Advisory Panel for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and is a director on the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation board. Although he has a busy schedule, Baines still finds time to serve as the president of the Spruce Head Co-op.

When asked why it’s important to be a part of the MLA, Baines said, “Whether it’s whale rules, bait issues or lack of profitable marketing, MLA is in the forefront of those issues. I wanted to be a part in shaping that voice.” If there is one thing that people should know about the MLA, it’s “how awesome our executive director is,” said Baines. He noted the many accomplishments that Patrice McCarron has had in her tenure and how hard she works for the industry. He also feels fortunate for the friendships he has made along the way as a director. “The board has a wealth of knowledge and experience” he said. “I’ve gained a lot from our board. It’s helped me to be a better fisherman.”