The lobster industry is grappling with a new era more perilous than anything it has ever experienced. The challenges facing our industry are extremely complex and the stakes are equally high. Whales and offshore wind development are issues that are here to stay. Both threaten the very survival of the lobster industry. And survival will not come without some difficult changes.
It is both scary and frustrating for lobstermen as they wonder whether or not they have a future in this fishery. Truth be told, there are just a handful of people in the industry who even understand the statutory and regulatory landscape that dictates what can and cannot be done. Fortunately for the lobster industry, the MLA is among the few who can navigate the complicated web of laws and regulations that control much of our future. Equally important, we understand the Maine lobster fishery and all that it means to our families, communities, and our state.
As lobstermen adapt to a future of unknowns, the MLA also has had to adapt as these issues exploded onto the scene. The MLA’s board and small staff persevered in executing a plan to stand up to the federal government and to non-governmental organizations seemingly determined to erase the fishery.
None of this has come easily. For decades, the MLA has squeaked by on membership dues from a core group of lobstermen who have always believed a strong MLA enables a strong lobster industry. However, the complexity of advocating for the lobster industry on whale rules and offshore wind has required the MLA to hire lawyers, experts and consultants to bolster MLA’s voice in pushing back hard on the multi-pronged efforts to make lobstering a thing of the past. We have remained nimble and we have raised the money necessary to get this work done. We are extremely proud of the team now in place and the caliber of work we are able to do for the lobster industry.
But it’s like running a marathon. You must have the physical resources to keep pounding the pavement, mile after mile. You also must have the mental stamina to keep at it, even when the goal seems so far away. The MLA is now in the middle of a marathon and we are looking very closely at our resources in order to use what we have in the most efficient way possible. Because we have to win this race.
The MLA’s primary focus is to advocate for its members. To do this, the MLA must be properly staffed and funded. Those serving as MLA Directors must be committed to helping the MLA effectively carry out its mission. One step toward making sure the MLA continues to do this well was to hire our first Chief Operating Officer, Amber-Jean Nickel, in March. She is working closely with the board and staff to keep the organization strong and laser beam focused.
As Policy Director, my time is now dedicated to working with the board to advocate for our members on pressing policy issues — currently whale rules and offshore wind continue to be the highest priorities.
Members should expect to see more changes from the MLA as the organization continues to grow and evolve. The MLA is now in its 69th year. We have a lot of history under our belt but our mission remains crystal-clear: since 1954 the MLA has advocated for a sustainable lobster resource and the fishermen and communities that depend on it. That is certainly not as straightforward to achieve as it once was, but it is arguably more important than ever.
I am very proud to be the MLA’s Policy Director. I have been running this marathon for many years now and have been re-invigorated by the outpouring of support for the MLA from all quarters of the state. This industry — the people, the work you do, the community — are all so special and truly worth fighting for. In just a few short years the MLA has accomplished more than we ever could have imagined in our quest to save the fishery, and we remain incredibly grateful for the tremendous support we’ve received from all of you.
As always, stay safe on the water.