ROCKPORT — Is co-management the answer to perplexing questions in the fishing industry?
That question will be explored during the 23rd annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum, to be held March 5-7 at the Samoset Resort. The annual event gives fishermen, scientists and managers an opportunity to discuss management problems face to face in a forum unmatched in the country, organizers say.
The eel, sea urchin, clam and scallop fisheries are experiencing declining catches and the groundfish resource has been seriously depleted. Even the lobster has been classified as “overfished” by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
In the face of continued problems in the industry, traditional methods of government decree has been called into question. Both the scientist and the people who fish the grounds every day must cooperate in finding appropriate management techniques, if the industry is to survive and prosper in the next century, many industry people say.
In the lobster industry, a new system of lobster zone councils has been established to give local fishermen a voice in local management options. The weekend forum will explore the successes and failures of the councils and determine what application the technique will have in managing other fisheries.
The March 5 session will open at 9 a.m. with a session on co-management across the state. Industry panels will discuss the status of the state clam industry at 9:30 a.m. and explore zone councils for sea urchins at 10 a.m.
At 1 p.m., James Acheson of the University of Southern Maine will discuss foreign management techniques. Craig Pendleton of the Northwest Atlantic Maine Alliance will discuss community based, self-organized and self-regulating fishing organizations. James Wilson of the University of Maine marine sciences department will explore new ideas in fishing management.
At 2:15 p.m., open discussion will be held on “where do we go from here” in fishing management in Maine. Concluding remarks will be presented at 4 p.m.
The daylong seminar schedule for March 6 and March 7 has not been released. The seminars will explore every nook and cranny of the fishing industry including migratory species, the annual scallop roundtable, health care information, lobster brood stock observed from a submarine, global fishery assessments, improving air freight of Maine fish, underutilized species, whales, endangered species, limited entry into the shrimp industry, opportunities in seaweed, urchin research, herring stocks and a proposal to export frozen bait.
On March 6, the traditional trade show will open and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association annual meeting will convene at 9 a.m. The Maine urchin Harvester’s Association will meet Saturday at 1 p.m. The Maine Fishermen’s Cooperative will meet at 9 a.m. on Sunday.
The annual forum is organized by Fishermen’s Forum Inc., Department of Marine Resources, University of Maine, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Maine Fishing Industry Development Center, the Island Institute and the Cooperative Extension Service.