CASTINE, Maine — Forty-five students from seven of Maine’s coastal high schools have been tasked with solving a unique challenge:
What do fishermen need to do to make winter flounder a viable fishery in Maine?
The students, some of whom are already fishermen and others who plan to be, are nearly halfway through a year-long course called the Eastern Maine Skippers Program created by educators from Deer Isle-Stonington High School and the Penobscot East Resource Center.
At the beginning of the year, the students were presented with a problem: Maine’s fishing economy is dangerously dependent on lobster, which accounts for 65 percent of the value of Maine’s catch, according to the Department of Marine Resources. The winter flounder, which is not fished commercially and has had a steady population in recent years, was suggested by teachers as an alternative. Now the students are working in four regional teams to find out if that new fishery has potential.
Along the way, they will need to design, build and field test their own fish traps, analyze data, apply to the state Department of Marine Resources for an exemption on a seasonal flounder fishing ban and present their findings to public officials.