The 48th annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum returns to Rockport during March 2-4 with a full schedule of seminars, events, and exhibitors.
The forum at the Samoset Resort is the largest event of its kind in New England – “one dedicated to offering fishermen, clammers, lobstermen, aquaculturalists and other related seafood industry participants an opportunity to meet on neutral ground with fisheries managers, state representatives, congressmen, and senators,” as organizers say.
The three-day agenda includes more than 30 seminars on various fishing industry topics, trends, changes in gear regulations, and more latest developments. Other attractions are family programs, the forum’s large trade show, a seafood reception highlighting Maine products, and a banquet and dance Saturday night.
The forum will host a benefit auction to raise scholarship funds for the kids that will be held on Friday, March 3. This year’s awards will include two $8,000 scholarships, thanks to an anonymous fisherman’s donation, as well as regular scholarships being offered.
There is no cost to attend the Forum seminars, tradeshow, or auction. It will be the first in-person Fishermen’s Forum in two years after the disruption of covid-19 forced a first cancellation in 2021.
“We were really close last year (2022). But we had another outbreak in the State of Maine,” and organizers made the difficult decision to hold off one more year, said forum president Steve Train.
The 2023 show kicks off Thursday with morning sessions focused on shellfish and fisheries engagement on offshore wind development – a growing concern for fishermen as the federal government and wind developers look to the deepwater Gulf of Maine.
The forum continues Friday with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association 69th annual meeting at 10:30 a.m.; the Lobster Marketing Collaborative's annual report and the latest updates on the Northern Gulf of Maine federal scallop fishery, both at 1 p.m.; and a 2:45 p.m open forum with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s federal fisheries leadership.
Saturday sessions include:
- The Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association 2023 pre-season meeting at 9 a.m.
- Looking Back & Planning Ahead for Maine Scallop Industries 9 a.m.
- Working with Fishermen on Abandoned Fishing Gear in the Gulf of Maine 9 a.m.
- Economics of the Lobster Fleet in Changing Times 10:30 a.m.
- Alewife Harvesters of Maine Annual Meeting 10:30 a.m.
- Seafood Cooking Demonstration: Amp Up Your Seafood Dishes! 10:30 a.m.
- Maine Department of Marine Resources Lobster Science Update 10:30 a.m.
- Lessons Learned from 2023 Northeast Cooperative Research Summits 1 p.m.
- Maine Elver Fishermen’s Association Annual Meeting 1 p.m.
- Balancing Perspectives: Commercial Fishermen and the Aquaculture Leasing Process 1 p.m. Navigating Fishing Industry Stressors: A Community Forum 1 p.m.
- Fishing Industry-Based Environmental Data Collection in Northeast U.S. 2:45 p.m.
- Alternative to Plastic Aquaculture Gear 2:45 p.m.
The 2023 Maine Fishermen’s Forum also marks the retirement of Chilloa Young after 25 years of service as the forum’s coordinator.
Young took on the job of coordinators after serving on the forum’s board of directors, when . “her experience with the Forum and her knowledge of and dedication to the well-being of the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, made her a natural for the position,” according to forum officials.
“Chilloa has, with distinction, managed the complicated job of organizing one of the largest fishing industry trade shows in New England, staffing the Board of Directors, and assuring that the annual event runs smoothly,” said president Steve Train. “Her organizational skills and dedication to excellence are extraordinary. She will be missed.”
The forum has hired Kathleen Gilbert as the new executive director, bringing her experience in event planning and marketing.
“We’re fortunate to have Kathleen’s strong background in event planning and implementation, and we’re confident she will guide us through a smooth transition,” said Train. “We encourage everyone attending the 2023 Forum to say a warm goodbye to Chilloa and a warm welcome to Kathleen.”