ROCKPORT — The 44th annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum opens at the Samoset Resort on Thursday morning and there should be a full house for the entire three-day event.
According to forum Coordinator Chiloa Young, rooms at the Samoset have been “100 percent booked for Friday and Saturday night” for several weeks. At the beginning of the week, a few rooms were available for Thursday. Friday night’s fish dinner and Saturday night’s closing banquet and award ceremony are strictly SRO — standing room only — with a waiting list for tickets to the popular events.
As good as those dinners might be, the real meat and potatoes of the forum are the seminars and workshops Thursday through Saturday and the trade show.
The show displays every kind of marine and fisheries-related service and product available, from lobster boats to marine engines and the financing to buy them, foul weather gear to buoy sticks, wire lobster traps and the electronic gear needed to locate them and come home safely.
The trade show is more than just a merchandise mart, though every exhibitor has something to market. It might be financing or insurance products for sale. Educational opportunities are on offer, sponsored by a variety of trade, government and nonprofit entities.
Thursday, “Shellfish Focus Day,” is often fairly low-key, but it isn’t likely to be this year.
A Coast Guard-approved CPR and first aid training course offered by the American Health and Safety Institute and sponsored by Bar Harbor Savings and Loan was oversubscribed by the beginning of the week.
At 1 p.m., the New England Fishery Management Council is holding a “scoping session” on proposed changes to the way it manages the scallop fishery in the northern Gulf of Maine.
The scallop fishery is one of the most lucrative in the nation and, in recent years, more effort has been directed at dragging for scallops in federal waters (beyond the three-mile limit) off the Maine coast eastward to the Canadian boundary line.
Among the issues to be considered for inclusion in an as-yet-undrafted amendment to the fishery management plan are establishing total and individual catch limits for the northern gulf waters and the transferability of individual landings quotas.
Friday has a heavy focus on lobsters, with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association’s annual meeting on the calendar featuring, and followed by, discussions of coming regulatory changes aimed at protecting endangered northern right whales and other marine mammals.
Planning to attend, weather permitting, is attorney Mary Anne Mason from the Washington, D.C., law firm Crowell and Moring. An expert in anti-trust and trade regulation law, Mason serves as pro bono counsel to the MLA and represented the group in the last round of federal court litigation aimed at imposing stricter limits on the lobster fishery in the name of whale protection.
In the afternoon, leaders from NOAA Fisheries, including Regional Administrator Samuel Rauch III, deputy assistant administrator for regulatory programs, will be on hand for an “open forum” discussion that should be wide-ranging considering the variety of regulatory issues currently facing the fishing industry.
Saturday’s schedule includes annual meetings of the Maine Elver Fishermen’s Association, the Alewife Harvesters of Maine and the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association.
Presentations involving the new Ocean School in Searsport and the ongoing fight to preserve Maine’s working waterfront are planned, along with presentations on anchoring floating aquaculture systems and the burgeoning scallop farming industry.
Marketing seminars will focus on lobsters, but also “emerging species” such as black sea bass and even green crabs.
Also on tap are a variety of workshops dealing with financing and business planning for fishermen.
At 10:30 a.m., chef Jim LeVerso will lead a hands-on, spoon-in workshop titled “It is, But it Isn’t: Chowder by Any Other Name.” Based on past forums, this is one presentation that is not to be missed.