Students from seven coastal Maine high schools began designing an alternative fishery for Downeast Maine this week as part of the Eastern Maine Skippers Program (EMSP).
The 45 students, who first met Monday at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, will work with researchers from Penobscot East Resource Center and the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to begin engineering a trap-based winter flounder fishery. As part of the EMSP Winter Flounder Project, students will study the life history of winter flounder including prey choice, behavior and habitat preferences. Students will also study the current rules that impact the development of a new fishery- including those that provide strict regulation of fishing gear use and design.
Since there is currently no fishery in Maine for winter flounder, students will need to apply to the DMR Advisory Council in January to obtain a special license. With this information, school teams will engineer a flounder trap to maximize the amount of legal flounder caught and minimize bycatch. Students will have to design the trap dimensions, orientation, weight, fish entry and mechanisms for the exit for non-target species.
While designing and field testing the innovative flounder trap technology, students will collect data that will also address the question of whether it is possible to start an economically and environmentally sustainable trap fishery in Downeast Maine.
The students will present their findings to DMR Commission Patrick Keliher in May.
In 2012, Deer Isle Stonington High School and Penobscot East Resource Center collaborated to create the Eastern Maine Skippers Program. EMSP is a regionalized program which aims to provide aspiring commercial fishermen in schools from North Haven to Eastport the skills needed to be successful fishermen in a time of rapid environmental and regulatory change.
A cohort of over 40 students from Vinalhaven, North Haven, Deer Isle-Stonington, Blue Hill, Ellsworth, MDI and Narraguagus remain in their schools and collaborate in the program via technology-based “anytime, anywhere” learning.Students also meet in person several times each year to participate in events such as meetings with the DMR and the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. Schools participating in the EMSP collaborate to provide a wide range of learning opportunities for their students as well as the cohort.