Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance
Leadership, Lobster, and Lessons from Maine’s Waters
The lobstering industry has been up against a sea of change recently, says Antonina “Andi” Pelletier, membership director for Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance (MLCA), including a 70% reduction in the industry’s main bait source, warming effects of the Gulf of Maine, and proposed restrictions on lobster fisheries. These and other issues are covered in MLCA’s April 2019 issue of Landings, the organization’s monthly newsletter and one of its many educational resources.
MLCA works as a sister organization to the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA), which allows MLCA to get the funds they need to provide educational programs and keep the public informed about important industry facts, statistics, and historical information that paints an accurate picture of Maine’s lobstering industry.
One of the most popular programs is the Lobster Leadership Institute that casts into the younger people in the community.
“Age is relative in the lobstering industry, so the program includes people from 18- to 40-year-olds,” says Pelletier.
“We take participants off their boats and out of their harbors and bring them together for a two-day workshop where they get to learn a lot more about the industry than they thought they knew, including business education, what the Department of Marine Resources is doing for science and legislative work, and even some presentations on marketing,” says Pelletier.
Participants are also tasked with doing some independent work, which might include getting more involved with the legislature and attending meetings to learn how a bill goes through, for example. Or they might choose to go to an MLA board meeting or a zone council meeting, “all of which serve as ways to encourage young lobstermen to step into their community and see how leadership works and understand that the industry is state-wide, it’s not just happening in their harbor,” says Pelletier.
Attending the Boston Seafood Show is particularly eye-opening, she explains, because program participants get to experience part of the national reach that Maine lobsters have and their capacity to compete with international products.
Last but not least, institute participants are taken to Canada to fish with Canadian lobstermen for about three days so they get exposure to the different ways that fishing can be done.
“It sparks an interest in participants to move forward and have more of a voice in the industry and understand the different pieces that affect it” Pelletier says. “I think it’s really easy for lobstermen to say ‘I think about my fuel, my bait, and traps, and I’m good to go,’ and that’s not really the full story.”
Several of MLCA’s current board members were first participants in the Lobster Leadership Institute.
“If you talk to MLA’s board members many of them will tell you that they’re fishing now for the younger generation; the conservation methods they use are so that we have a fishery down the road. It’s all about the conservation and preservation,” says Pelletier.
To read the most recent news from Landings, visit mlcalliance.org/news/.