2008 Annual Report
Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Spotlight on Community

Learning to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Fishing Industry

As New England’s fishermen face the challenges of a changing industry, they are working hard to improve the profitability of their businesses and safeguard the region’s fishing heritage. GMRI supports their efforts with a variety of workshops and innovative training opportunities.

In May 2010, we hosted our first Trawl to Table event at our lab. This innovative forum brought together chefs, local fishermen, and gear researchers. While learning about gear displayed on GMRI’s lawn, the group talked in detail about fish behavior, fishing gear selectivity, fisheries management, and habitat impacts of trawl gear used in the Gulf of Maine. Lunch featured redfish, a plentiful but often under-appreciated species, prepared by Port Clyde fisherman Justin Libby. Said Sam Hayward, owner and chef at Fore Street in Portland, ME “At one time I knew the fishermen who supplied my seafood, but I didn’t know any of the farmers who provided our produce or meat. Today the opposite is true.” GMRI hopes events like these will rebuild those connections and spark learning and ongoing conversations on a range of issues from promoting underutilized species to handling practices that ensures the highest quality seafood. 

In December 2010, GMRI moderated a workshop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to explore the complex concept of permit banks.  Based on the premise that public, private for-profit, or private not-for-profit can hold fishing permits with the intention of leasing the associated fishing privileges, permit banks can achieve a variety of goals including maintaining access to a fishery, protecting fleet diversity, and promoting collaborative research. They are poorly understood and many in the groundfish industry remain skeptical that they could be misused. The workshop enabled groundfish fishermen, sector managers, state and federal agencies, and non-profits to share experiences and concerns in development of regional permit banks, and to discuss how to best communicate issues to industry, government agencies, and to fishing communities.

In March 2011, fishermen and sector managers from around New England joined GMRI for a two day Environmental Management System workshop in Beverly, Massachusetts. A series of expert presentations and interactive, hands-on activities explored strategies to decrease the costs of fishing while improving the marketability and profitability of catch. Topics included fuel savings, improved catch value, quality handling, reduction of environmental impacts, financing, and marketing. Many participants came thinking they might not learn anything new but left feeling more in control of their businesses.  One participant characterized the experience this way, “I didn’t think I would like this or get much out of it, but I was wrong. This has given us a vehicle to work through some of the issues facing the industry — issues that we have some control over. GMRI’s role as an enabler has been extremely helpful. Every single fisherman I spoke to is full of ideas that have never been brought to fruition. Maybe we now have access to the tools to work on some of these ideas.”

 

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