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Always Something New at the Maine Fishermen's Forum

The 49th annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum takes place from February 29 to March 2 at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. The three-day event brings together people from the worlds of fishing, academia, government and the environmental community as well as health professionals, students, family members and others involved in New England’s ever-changing fisheries. The Maine Lobstermen’s Association will hold its 70th annual meeting on March 1 at 9 a.m.

MLA Board Member Craig Stewart and wife Mary at the Seafood Reception. MFF photo.

The Forum kicks off on Thursday, February 29, with a day-long session on shellfish management and science and another on offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine. The offshore wind session will include updates on the state-initiated Maine research array, proposed for an area off southern Maine, and on lease areas identified in federal waters. Presenters will also speak about the permitting process for offshore wind development in the Gulf and designs for proposed floating wind turbines.

In addition to the MLA Annual Meeting, Friday morning seminars include presentations on Atlantic cod management and planning related to the planned cod stock assessment beginning this year; an interactive session on seafood markets and market development held by SEA Maine; and an update on coming changes to the Northern Gulf of Maine federal scallop fishery.

The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative will present the organization’s annual report for 2023 and outline its marketing plan for 2024.

Sen. Susan Collins at Friday night's Scholarship Auction. MFF photo.

Friday afternoon includes seminars on safety and health for fishermen and on adaptation to distribution shifts among marine species due to climate change. The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) will hold a scoping meeting to get comments on Amendment 10 to the Atlantic herring fishery management plan. There also will be the annual question and answer session with federal fisheries managers, including top officials from NOAA, the National Fisheries Management Service (NMFS), NEFMC, and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

Saturday morning starts off with seminars on decarbonizing the fishing sector, research and management priorities for the scallop fishery, and implications of black sea bass and other warm-water species in the Gulf of Maine.

Department of Marine Resources (DMR) staff will present the department’s annual lobster science update Saturday morning. The presentations will review 2023 data drawn from DMR’s many surveys which track Maine lobster through all life stages. Maine’s commercial marine landings for 2023 will also be released at this time.

A Saturday afternoon seminar addresses Maine’s working waterfront and coastal access issues. The devastating coastal storms in January brought renewed attention to the importance of working waterfront for Maine’s fishermen and aquaculturists and its precariousness in the face of non-fishing pressures. The Maine Commercial Fishing Safety Council (CFSC) will host a seminar focused on safety at sea. Presenters will review data on at-sea disasters and demonstrate the benefits of having a Damage Control Kit aboard every vessel. Two kits will be raffled during the Forum.

The Forum Trade Show draws vendors from throughout New England. MFF photo.

In addition to the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, several other fisheries organizations will hold their annual meetings during the Forum. These include the Maine Elver Fishermen’s Association, the New England Fishermen’s Stewardship Association, Alewife Harvesters of Maine, and the Maine Lobster Boat Races Association.

Forum attendees can take a break from the seminars at the popular Marine Trade Show. The Trade Show brings equipment companies, fisheries organizations, marine insurers, banks and other businesses connected to New England fisheries into one space, allowing the public to look, learn, and chat with staff. More than 120 vendors will be at the Trade Show this year.

Throughout the Forum, students from the University of Southern Maine School of Nursing will be conducting screenings for fishermen and their families. These yearly services include free blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and general health screenings. A dermatologist will also be available to provide free skin cancer screenings.

And, as in previous years, the Coast Guard’s Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Program will conduct water safety training on Friday and Saturday mornings in the Samoset pool.

There will be a social event each evening at the Forum, beginning with Thursday evening’s popular Seafood Reception and Silent Auction. All the seafood is donated by seafood companies and organizations, then prepared by the Samoset’s chefs. Proceeds from the Silent Auction go to the Forum’s college scholarship fund.

Friday night is the Forum’s Fish Dinner followed by the popular live auction. Marci Train returns as auctioneer, to take bids for a wide variety of products and services, all to benefit the college scholarship fund. On Saturday the Forum wraps up with a gala banquet and presentations of awards, followed by a lively dance.

It’s noisy, it’s crowded, it’s full of surprises every year. Come early March, the Maine Fishermen’s Forum is the place to be.


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