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Steaming Ahead | June 2024

I have not been on the board nearly as long as some but it has been a great experience and I have learned a lot. One thing that I’ve learned is that the Maine Lobstermen's Association (MLA) represents lobstermen all along Maine’s coast. The 21 board members come from everywhere, covering as much of the coast as possible to ensure every area gets a voice on the board. On the MLA board you will find fishermen from Kennebunk to Cutler and everywhere in between. 

From Kittery to Lubec, the MLA tackles the issues that matter to lobstermen. MLA photo.

The other thing I’ve learned is that the board members listen and learn from each other. Often I would go into a board meeting with a strong opinion about a topic and feel confident about the best way to proceed, then someone from another area of the coast would present a different viewpoint and I would change my mind. That is the true strength of the MLA — we are open-minded to each other’s points of view even if they don’t reflect our own. 

I have heard and read comments from people who think they know the MLA’s stance on many topics, and sometimes what they think is actually the opposite of MLA’s position, which can be very frustrating. The MLA Board take issues seriously, spending hours weighing each topic and talking it through until we come to a decision. Because we do not have to answer to anyone other than those who lobster, we always take the route that keeps lobstermen fishing safely and sustainably. Anyone assuming that is not the case is encouraged to contact the board members listed on our website or come to a meeting. The meetings are held monthly, and anyone is welcome to attend. 

Every fisherman should be a part of at least one organization that represents him. It’s the best way to stay informed about what’s really happening, not just what an individual has put on social media. The MLA has been around for 70 years and has been the leader on many issues, from windmills to right whale regulations. There are always some battles that we, unfortunately, can’t take on because we don’t have unlimited pockets of money or staff people, so we save our fights for the really serious issues, like suing the federal government over the whale regulations which would’ve dramatically changed the traditional way of lobstering and also the coastal economy. I fear many harbors would have been left looking barren with no lobster boats in the water if the National Marine Fisheries Service had won. The MLA spearheaded that fight.

Recently we had a member from another organization attend a board meeting, which was a very positive experience. As fishermen, we often share more in common than not. Our approaches may differ, but they can often complement each other. The MLA works with scientists, citizens’ groups, non-profit organizations, all those who are keeping lobstermen fishing and their communities thriving. For example, the MLA has a strong, respectful working relationship with the Department of Marine Resources. While we may not always agree on how specific issues are handled, there is enough mutual respect to find common ground and work together. 

This is how the MLA has achieved so much in the past, by standing firm as an organization on what matters most and collaborating with others instead of fighting over the few things we don’t agree on. I urge you to join us today so we can continue to preserve the way of life many of you truly love.


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