Andy Mays of Southwest Harbor, back left, was honored earlier this month with the first Maine Department of Marine Resources Excellence Award at the Fisherman’s Forum. After the banquet, he and his sons, from left, Eddie, Stani and Sylvester, spoke with Gov. Paul LePage, back right. PHOTO COURTESY OF JEFF NICHOLS

Andy Mays given first DMR Excellence Award

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Andy Mays is not often at a loss for words.

But when the Southwest Harbor lobster fisherman and scalloper was called up on stage at the Fisherman’s Forum banquet earlier this month to receive a new award from Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Commissioner Patrick Keliher, he was caught off guard.

“I’m speechless. I think this is the first time I’ve ever been speechless,” he said.

The DMR Excellence Award, presented for the first time this year, recognizes industry members who participate with the department to ensure a sustainable future for Maine’s commercial fisheries. Mays was honored for his 25-plus years of service and participation on DMR advisory councils.

“As commissioner, I have come to rely on Andy for his informed, colorfully blunt and straightforward opinions and ideas,” Keliher said. “His advice and input is always a welcome and valuable contribution to the fisheries management process.”

Mays has been active in fisheries management through DMR research, advisory councils and legislation for nearly a generation. He has worked with four commissioners and helped usher in the current scallop management system. He’s active in lobster management meetings, too.

“The DMR has recognized me for something I do really well, which is arguing with people,” he said this week.

Since the banquet, he’s been kicking himself for forgetting to thank his wife, Michelle, “which should have been number one” in any speech, he said.

“All the spouses holding down the home front while people are putting in hundreds of hours in meetings and on the phone are part of this.”

Mays, who had attended the forum with his wife and their three kids, said they were all tired from a full day at the forum and hadn’t even planned to stay for the banquet. DMR staff eventually had to buttonhole Michelle and tell her about the award so she could talk Andy into staying for dinner without spoiling the surprise.

Andy Mays and Congressman Bruce Poliquin. PHOTO COURTESY OF MARK HASKELL

Andy Mays and Rep. Bruce Poliquin. PHOTO COURTESY OF MARK HASKELL

“They put us in the front row,” Mays said. “Pat (Keliher) gets up and starts talking, and I’m not paying attention to him. Then I heard my name, so I looked at him and he was looking at me. I thought he was just up there yakkin’, talking about the auction or something.”

“There was a pause, and the 500 people in the banquet room were looking at me too. I felt like I was back in trigonometry class and I got called on and I didn’t know the answer.”

Mays was diagnosed with cancer around the time of last year’s forum, so the annual event has been a landmark for him. Neighbors on Mount Desert Island and fishermen in the Maine Lobstermen’s Association have rallied to support his family, hosting benefit dinners and sending cards and donations.

So when he reached the microphone, thanking the group for that support was what came to mind first.

Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin were at another table near the front. “Senator Collins, it’s nice to see you here,” he said. “Congressman Poliquin, I’m glad you’re here too. Even if you did kick me off your Facebook page.”

That got a big laugh.

After the banquet, Mays thanked Gov. Paul LePage for appointing Keliher, who he thinks has ushered in an era of strong collaboration between regulators and fishermen.

“That’s your best political pick right there, governor,” he said. “He has the trust of the industry.”

He recalled one of Keliher’s first meetings with fishermen as a case in point.

“The DMR was going to close Cobscook Bay to scalloping, and we had a meeting in Whiting at the firehouse. There were probably 250 people in a room that’s meant to hold 50, all apoplectic, probably a quarter of them were drunk. It was really volatile and tense. I was thinking the lid was gonna blow off it.”

When Keliher told one particularly out-of-control fisherman to sit down and shut up, Mays remembered, “the temperature in the room dropped about 10 degrees. You could see everyone was thinking, ‘This guy speaks our language, and he’s not intimidated.’”

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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