ROCKPORT — The 42nd annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum kicks off on Thursday, March 2, at the Samoset Resort.
More than 30 free seminars over three days will touch on topics affecting the state’s fisheries.
Shellfish Focus Day takes place on day one with seminars ranging in subject from biology, to policy and legislation, shellfish management and biotoxins.
Panelists include researchers and scientists, such as Brian Beal of the Downeast Institute, representatives from the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), state legislators and municipal shellfish council members, including Mike Pinkham, shellfish warden of Gouldsboro.
Chad Coffin of the Maine Clammers Association will be on hand to discuss the state’s bivalve industry, along with Gulf of Maine Inc.’s Tim Sheehan, who will make a presentation about business strategies for the shellfish industry.
Also on Thursday is the Northeast Coastal Communities Sector annual meeting, preceded by an hourlong open session for the public. The Maine Coast Community Sector also will hold its annual meeting on Thursday.
Scientists researching the Gulf of Maine’s warming waters will present their findings from the Environmental Monitors on Lobster Trap (eMolt) Program Collaboration, which records bottom temperatures at different depths.
Shannon Tibbets of the Fishermen Scientist Research Society will go over the data with input from representatives from the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Observing Systems and the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation.
A new aspect of this year’s forum is a session on survival at sea. Fishermen will have the chance to try on innovative new personal flotation devices (PFDs) and share stories about water survival.
The crowning event of the forum is Friday morning’s Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) 62nd Annual Meeting with a keynote address by DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher.
The 9 a.m. meeting will focus on strategies to address enforcement issues facing the industry. Keliher will report on the state’s suspension system and Maine Marine Patrol officers will be on hand to answer questions.
MLA members, family and the public are invited to attend the meeting.
Also on Friday is an update on the proposed herring and menhaden regulations by the New England Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and how those could affect bait availability and the lobster industry this year.
Sessions on halibut and scallop management are set for Friday, as is a panel on maintaining sustainable ocean food systems.
Representatives from various nonprofits, co-ops and fishing towns will tap into the changing lobster industry and how families and communities can take on challenges together. Tips on financial planning and ways to generate income also will be presented. Malcolm Fernald of Cranberry Isles is on the panel.
The final day of the forum begins with a life raft and immersion suit training by the U.S. Coast Guard’s Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Program. Immersion suit inspections also will be available.
The Maine Elver Fishermen’s Association and the Alewife Harvesters of Maine will both congregate for their annual meetings Saturday.
The Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association will review the 2017 racing schedule at its preseason meeting.
Closing sessions include a panel of DMR staffers who will talk about the proposed deep-sea coral amendment that could impact lobstermen who fish around Schoodic Ridges and Mount Desert Rock.
Preregistration is required for the social events following Thursday, Friday and Saturday seminars. There will be a seafood reception and silent auction, fish dinner and a closing banquet and dance.
For schedules and detailed seminar descriptions, visit mainefishermensforum.org.