first published in landings, February, 2020
For many the notion of turning 45 means middle age, a time of slowing down. But not for the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. Now entering its 45th year, the 2020 Forum, whose lead sponsor is Mack Boring and Parts Company, promises to be as lively as ever, packed with the people, businesses and organizations involved in the many fisheries of the region.
The Forum begins on Thursday, March 5, with an all-day seminar on wind energy development in the Gulf of Maine. Those interested in attending are asked to pre-register for the seminar at https://mainefishermensforum.org/wind-seminar. The seminar will address topics such as Maine and the region’s renewable energy goals, fisheries issues, new technologies, and the goals of the recently formed Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Task Force and those of individual states. Speakers include federal and state agencies representatives and fishing industry members involved in wind energy projects.
Also on Thursday will be an all-day seminar focusing on the state’s shellfish industry. Presentations include talks on shellfish conservation and water quality, applied shellfish science, emerging environmental risks, and an update from the Shellfish Advisory Council.
As in years past, there will be survival training classes held in the Samoset Resort pool beginning on Friday morning. Also on Friday morning the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) will hold its 66th annual meeting at 9 a.m.; all MLA members are invited to attend.
Participants can learn about recent changes that have been made to the federal Atlantic herring fishery management plan, which led to a sharp reduction in the herring quota in 2019. The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative will present its annual report on its activities and provide a look at what’s ahead in 2020. In the afternoon, there will be a seminar on the federal scallop fishery and possible management changes coming this year. Later on Friday officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will take part in an open forum on key issues in the region. The afternoon session will allows participants to question those decision-makers whose actions directly affect multiple fisheries, an opportunity rarely found elsewhere.
On Saturday, the day opens with a session on the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety’s Lifejackets for Lobstermen project. The three-year project was created to encourage fishermen to wear personal flotation devices while fishing. To do that, project staff surveyed fishermen around the Gulf about what they looked for in a lifejacket and tested numerous models with fishermen in Maine and Massachusetts. In 2019, two vans travelled to 53 different harbors throughout the year offering fishermen 11 different styles of lifejackets for sale at 50% retail cost. The project ultimately distributed more than 1,000 lifejackets to lobstermen throughout the region.
The Department of Marine Resources (DMR) will present the results of its 2019 lobster research work, including ventless trap, trawl, settlement and sea sampler data. The DMR will also release the state’s preliminary fisheries landings figures for the year. In the afternoon, DMR’s Marine Patrol will review the new gear-marking requirements for lobstermen including the Maine-only gear mark color, purple, placement of marks throughout the line, and the do’s and don’ts of complying with this new requirement.
The afternoon will also feature seminars on scallop farming, a developing sector in the state’s aquaculture industry, a discussion of handling practices in lobster businesses, and changes taking place along Maine’s working waterfront.
The range of seminars at the Forum is matched by the ever-popular Forum Trade Show. This year nearly 120 companies, organizations, and agencies will be setting up booths at the Trade Show, offering participants the chance to talk about and look at engines, electronics, traps — everything and anything related to the art of fishing.
On Thursday night will be the seafood reception, sponsored by Smithwick & Mariners Insurance, Farm Credit East, and National Fisherman, with seafood items donated by an array of companies.
On Friday night will be a dinner followed by the annual Forum Scholarship Auction, this year featuring David Etnier as auctioneer, to raise funds for the regular scholarship fund. The Forum’s scholarship fund benefits children, grandchildren or a legal dependents of those actively involved in Maine’s seafood industry. Undergraduates attending a two- or four-year college who are in at least the second year of their program or students who are in at least the second semester of their certificate program are eligible. This year, in honor of the Forum’s 45th anniversary, the Board of Directors of the Forum have donated a $4,500 scholarship. In addition, an anonymous fisherman has donated two $6,000 scholarships. Scholarship applications are accepted through March 4.
Saturday night brings the Forum to an end with the annual banquet and dance. During the evening awards will be made, including the DMR Officer of the Year award.
Throughout the three-day event, students from the University of Maine’s School of Nursing will be holding a health clinic, where anyone can get free blood pressure checks, glucose and cholesterol screenings.
Once again, we look forward to seeing you at the Forum!