First published in Landings, January, 2013.
Welcome to Landings, the newsletter of the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance!
You may be asking yourself, “Wait a second. What happened to the Maine Lobstermen’s Association newsletter? And what the heck is the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance?” The short answer is that the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance (MLCA) is the new sister non profit organization of the MLA. The MLA remains just the same, still advocating for Maine lobstermen and the resource they depend on, as it has done since 1954. The MLCA, on the other hand, is dedicated to fostering thriving coastal communities and preserving Maine’s lobstering heritage.
So what does that mean, exactly? Each organization has its own board of directors. Each organization has its own budget. Each organization tackles different issues facing Maine’s lobstermen and lobstering communities. And each organization shares a single executive director, Patrice McCarron.
The motivation for creating this new organization came about after the MLA finished its strategic plan in 2009. The MLA board reaffirmed its mission, as a vigorous industry association that advocates for Maine’s commercial lobstermen at the state, regional and federal levels. The board decided, however, that to meet the lobstering industry’s educational, scientific and charitable needs, a new organization should be formed. So in September, 2010, the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance was incorporated as non-profit organization.
The next obvious question is: so what’s the MLCA going to do? Partnering with other organizations but using the same staff as the MLA, the MLCA has many new projects in the works. First among these is the herring acoustic survey, undertaken with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute this past fall. Beginning in August and running through the fall months, ten lobster boats outfitted with acoustic equipment surveyed Atlantic herring populations throughout Gulf of Maine inshore areas. The data will be used by fisheries scientists to better estimate the abundance of inshore herring, in turn leading to more accurate herring allocations.
The MLA newsletter also is taking a new form. As part of the MLCA, the paper, renamed Landings, will continue to inform the public and Maine’s lobstering communities about what’s happening along the coast. The 24-page paper, however, will broaden its focus to include features on Maine’s many fisheries, the status of the lobster resource, and relevant community issues including public policy and science debates.
A new project starting in 2013 is the Claws for a Cause program. The goal of Claws for a Cause is to educate the public about the sustainable practices of the Maine lobstermen, such as the use of escape vents and V-notching. Designed to be used in restaurants and other businesses, the MLCA has developed a table tent card and poster presenting facts about the Maine’s lobstering heritage and sustainable fishery. Participating businesses will donate a portion of their profits to the Claws for a Cause program. Two businesses thus far are participating in the program; additional companies will be solicited this winter.
In addition, the MLCA is drafting the very first Lobster Industry Indicators report this year. The Lobster Indicators Report will present key scientific, economic and community facts that, taken together, illustrate the health of Maine’s lobster fishery. The report will point out the opportunities and challenges that must be considered in any future management decisions related to lobstering. The report will draw upon diverse research institutions such as the University of Maine, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the Island Institute for the relevant data.
During the upcoming summer months, the MLCA will work with the New England Aquarium on a research project to develop ropes that whales can see underwater and thus deter entanglement. MLCA will recruit and contract with at least seven Maine lobstermen to test colored ropes. The lobstermen will record the fouling, handling, hauling, coiling, and safety characteristics of these ropes and report on their experience.
During the upcoming summer months, the MLCA will work with theNew England Aquarium on a research project to develop ropes that whales can see underwater and thus deter entanglement. MLCA will recruit and contract with at least seven Maine lobstermen to test colored ropes. Th e lobstermen will record the fouling, handling, hauling, coiling, and safety characteristics of these ropes and report on their experience.
These projects are not ones that the MLA typically would undertake. But the MLA can take the results of projects such as the herring acoustic study or the colored rope tests to regulators in Augusta or Washington, D.C., to advocate for practical regulations that do not impose unfair burdens on the state’s lobstermen.
The MLA has played a critical role in launching and nurturing the establishment of the MLCA. In the future, the two organizations will continue to share staff and office space. The MLA will pursue its long-standing role as the voice of Maine’s commercial lobstermen, while the MLCA fulfills its charitable mission through programs in education, science and charity. Together the MLA and the MLCA can make great strides toward protecting Maine’s most profitable and long-standing marine fishery and the communities that rely upon it.