Coastal Outlook: March 2014

First published in Landings, March, 2014.

March can be a tough month. The weather runs the gamut from snow and bitter cold to rain and screaming winds. It’s a month to hunker down and prepare for the calmer days of April. One good thing about March is that the months kicks off with the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, the annual gathering of fishermen, scientists, marine resource managers and business owners at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. It’s a time to learn more about the state of New England’s multiple fisheries, check out new gear and equipment at the Trade Show, and catch up with friends and colleagues from throughout the region.

Despite the notoriously poor weather, March begins cheerfully with the Maine Fishermen's Forum, an event which brings all members of New England's fishing community together. Mark Haskall photo.

Despite the notoriously poor weather, March begins cheerfully with the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, an event which brings all members of New England’s fishing community together. Mark Haskall photo.

This month Landings also catches up on a number of issues facing Maine’s coastal communities. We take a look at the state of the lobster fishery as reflected in the American Lobster Settlement Index, an annual survey conducted in Atlantic Canada, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to monitor the density of juvenile lobsters on the bottom. The survey helps fisheries managers and lobstermen predict what the stock may be like in seven years’ time, when many lobsters reach legal size. For the past three years the settlement index has shown a decrease in the abundance of juvenile lobsters in different areas of the coast, causing some scientists to worry about the stock’s future.

March 31 marks the deadline for individuals to enroll in a health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act. Health insurance navigator April Gilmore will lead a seminar on Friday afternoon during the Forum to provide an overview on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with information on how Maine fishermen can enroll and panelists will review the health plans available through Maine’s Health Insurance Marketplace. Those who want to enroll in health insurance can make an appointments with a navigator during the Forum from 9am to 5pm on Friday, February 28 and Saturday, March 1. If you can’t make it to the Forum, Landings covers the deadlines for health insurance enrollment, provides information to those considering enrolling and discusses the penalties for those who choose not to enroll.

This month’s story on the health of lobstermen takes look at the ergonomics of lobstering. Yes, ergonomics. Fishing puts stress and strain on even the strongest bodies. Health researcher Ann Backus discusses techniques that lobstermen and other fishermen can use to protect themselves from injuries on the job.

Landings mentioned last month the untimely passing of Cape Neddick lobsterman Billy McIntire, son of MLA member Sonny McIntire. Billy was also an accomplished tuna fisherman. This month we have a story by one of Billy’s friends who had the opportunity to take part in a deep-sea tuna fishing trip with cast members of Wicked Tuna, in part to commemorate Billy’s life.

Landings also continues its series on the business of lobstering. Being a fisherman requires a signficant capital investment, the largest of which is your boat. Most fishermen insure their boat in case of loss or sinking. But how many also carry protection and indemnity coverage? P&I, as it is known, is a critical tool for fishermen to consider as a way to protect personal and business assets in the event of an accident, particularly those which result in injured crew. Landings gives an overview of the importance of P&I and the consequences to a fisherman of not having it.

We also meet a Vinalhaven lobsterman who served who served our country overseas, and taught German at the University of Maine. He talks his experience growing up in the lobster industry and his love of lobstering. And this month we feature an intriguing From the Dock letter which explores the meaning of sustainability in terms of seafood purchases and makes a case for eating local when it comes to fish.

As the days get just a little bit longer, I hope you enjoy all that this issue of Landings has to offer. Please take some time to look at the businesses who support Landings as monthly advertisers, and those featured in our business insert who support the lobster industry.