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Maine's Fishermen's Forum Convenes March 1-3

Next month, fishermen, researchers, environmental organizations, students and others will gather at the Samoset Resort in Rockport for the 43rd annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum. The three-day event begins on Thursday, March 1, and is full of presentations on everything from seaweed to shellfish.

The Forum begins with Shellfish Day on March 1, a full day of presentations on Maine’s wild and farmed shellfish industry. The theme this year is “Economics and Business Innovation.” Experts in harmful toxic blooms, shellfish aquaculture, green crab control and public health standards will speak to those in the industry and the general public. Thursday will also offer a First Aid and CPR training, and an update on the eMOLT program. First up on Friday morning is the 64th annual meeting of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. During the meeting, the MLA will say goodbye to its long-time president, David Cousens of South Thomaston, who will be stepping down after 27 years. At the meeting the board will elect its new president. Also on Friday, the results of the long-anticipated economic study of the lobster industry will be presented. This study examines the value of Maine’s lobster industry through the supply chain. On Friday afternoon, the lobster industry will have an opportunity to learn about the declining status of North American right whales and actions under consideration by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to protect them, including proposals for weak rope and ropeless fishing. Fishermen will be able to view gear removed from entangled right whales since the sinking line regulations have been

implemented. Other presentations on Friday include review of changes to the Northern Gulf of Maine federal scallop fishery; the yearly question-and-answer session with officials from NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office; and presentations by students in the Eastern Maine Skippers Program on their year-long research projects related to the question of how individuals and communities can best manage and restore local fisheries. The Eastern Maine Skippers Program is a collaboration between the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries in Stonington and the Rural Aspirations Project operating in eight high schools in Downeast Maine. The goal of the program is to allow students to work with scientists, fishermen, regulators and industry professionals to investigate challenges within the fishing industry and then to research, develop and present locally-based solutions. On Saturday there will be a meeting of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association, the Alewife Harvesters Association and the Maine Elver Fishermen’s Association. How fishermen can adapt to a warming Gulf of Maine will be tackled in a session entitled “Embracing Ecosystem Change: Can Jonah Crab, Black Sea Bass, and Fishing Communities Get Along?” Several sessions will focus on the Maine lobster fishery, which continues to be the economic mainstay of the coast. Scientists from DMR will present the 2017 lobster landings figures and their findings from the department’s settlement, ventless trap, sea sampling, and inshore trawl surveys. Other DMR policy experts will speak about the state of the lobster fishery both in Maine and elsewhere and possible management changes in the future. The University of Maine will present its research findings on what they’ve learned about cod and cusk bycatch in lobster traps. And researchers from the Northeast Center will discuss what they’ve learned during their project to identify a safe and comfortable life preserver for lobstermen to wear on their boats. The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative will give its annual report on efforts to develop stronger markets for Maine soft-shell lobsters. The MLMC was created by the Maine Legislature in 2013 and is up for re-authorization this year. Throughout the weekend there will be events for the families of fishermen, including numerous children’s activities and the ever-popular Food Guys’ seafood cooking classes. Nursing students from the University of Southern Maine nursing school will provide blood pressure and other health screenings for fishermen and their families. And the popular Trade Show will feature dozens of booths offering everything from fishing engines to the latest electronic gear. On Thursday evening Maine seafood companies will showcase their products at the evening Seafood Reception. On Friday night, the annual Fishermen’s Forum Scholarship auction takes place. The lively auction raises money for educational scholarships awarded to the children of fishermen or those in the fishing industry. On Saturday night the final dinner and dance will also feature the annual Officer of the Year awards, given by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. As ever, the Maine Fishermen’s Forum will be packed with presentations, conversations, and camaraderie. We hope to see you there!

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