Local Program Helps Future Generations of Fishermen

WINTER HARBOR, Maine (WABI) - Young people in Maine's fishing communities, whether they fish or not, are exposed to a constant view of boats and traps.

There's a program for those students who wish to take a non-traditional approach in the classroom, when it comes to the fishing industry.

"I'm really interested in coming up and seeing this stuff because I've spent my whole life on the water, like the water is my life."

In an era of proficiency-based education, many students Downeast are building relationships, knowledge, and the skills to graduate high school ready to face rapidly changing fishing environments.

It's all thanks to the Eastern Maine Skippers Program.

"What we hope they get out of it is a better understanding of the science behind the fisheries, a better understanding of what goes on in management, and a better understanding of how they can play a part in that management, and be good stewards in the future."

The program is a collaborative effort between the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries and the Rural Aspirations Project.

It's implemented in eight schools across Downeast Maine, focusing on providing students with the core knowledge and skills needed to sustain the fisheries they depend on.

"It's like getting them interested in being part of it and then understanding what it takes to be part of a future fishery. The skills of not just how do you catch it, but what do you do with it after you catch it, and how is that managed, and is there going to be catch next year and the year after that, and who's allowed to fish, and how does that all happen and what are all the rules? We really are trying to prepare them."

Over 100 students from Vinalhaven to Jonesport participated in the program's annual cohort day.

For some, it got a little competitive and a little messy.

With Maine's aging fishing population, many fear what the future will look like for generations to come.

But for Jonesport-Beals students like Kacey and J-Lynn, they know they have a legacy to carry on and can do so with help from programs like this.

"I've grown up going into the shop, seeing boats being made, and then coming out of the shop and watching it go in the water. I mean, I've lived on the water as well, so it's part of our DNA."