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First Year at the Helm

Hello members. I am writing to update you on my first year as President of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA). There was definitely no time to “ease” into this job. From the time I was voted in at the Annual Meeting last year there has been no shortage of issues facing the Maine lobster industry, the two obvious ones being whales and bait. Most of my time, besides actually fishing, has been spent on these issues. I think new whale regulations have the potential to actually change the way our fishery operates. One of the first things I did as President was attend several small industry meetings hosted by the MLA to have open discussions with lobstermen about whale rules. What I learned most from those meetings was just how differently we all fish in each area of the coast. The other big thing I learned was that after getting all the information about how the whale rules work and what we are up against, guys realized that there may be big changes coming and that we need a strategy in place to influence these changes. We received a lot of thoughtful suggestions at those events and I got a chance to meet some great people. Since then I have been appointed to the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team (ALWTRT). I serve with other MLA members Mike Sargeant, John Williams, and Dwight Carver, and our executive director, Patrice McCarron. You can be assured that with our group and Department of Marine Resources whale coordinator Erin Summers the State of Maine is being well represented on the ALWTRT and in other whale management arenas. Another big decision made by the MLA this year was to become involved in the lawsuit filed by conservation groups against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as an “intervenor.” It was a tough decision, because anything related to the courts is expensive, but ultimately, we need to be involved. It is not like the MLA to sit on the sidelines. By the way, donations to the Legal Defense Fund are greatly appreciated and needed to keep the MLA involved in this case!

Enough about whales. Bait is going to be the big story for the upcoming season. The NMFS has announced that the 2019 Atlantic herring quota will be cut 70% compared to last year. To put this in perspective, the 2018 quota was 110 million pounds and the 2019 quota will be 33 million. The MLA was Maine‘s only lobstering group attending bait meetings and pushing NMFS for more quota this year. Unfortunately, the poor stock assessment outweighed our concerns over how this will impact lobstermen. It will be pretty hard to make up 77 million pounds by putting a few less fish in each bait sack, but that’s a place to start. It will take a variety of strategies to weather this storm but I believe in the ability of lobstermen to adapt to difficult situations. Some other issues that I have spent time on over the past year are meeting with Maine’s Congressional delegation over whales and bait, the China tariffs on U.S. lobster, wind power developments, and testifying on multiple bills at the Maine Legislature. When I agreed to take on this position, I knew it would take up a great deal of my time. One of the biggest challenges for me is just how far I live from everything. It seems sometimes that I am spending more time behind the wheel of my old truck than the wheel on my bulkhead. I am very thankful for the unbelievable board of directors who step up when I can’t make a trip to Augusta. I know it goes without saying but executive director Patrice McCarron is the glue that holds this thing together. Her depth of knowledge of all the issues keeps me informed and helps me do my job effectively. I may be at the helm but she definitely does the navigating. Being away from home many evenings and having endless phone calls with news media, fishery managers, fishermen and others definitely take some getting used to. I am grateful for the patience and support I get from my wife and family. It has been a big transition for all of us. Lastly, I want to thank my board of directors for supporting me this first year and also our members because without your financial support we wouldn’t be able to do all that we do. We have some huge hurdles ahead but you can be assured that the MLA will be there, fulfilling our mission to “advocate for a sustainable lobster resource and the fishermen and communities that depend on it.” It is my privilege to serve as your president.

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