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Deer Isle, Isle au Haut and Stonington, Maine.
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by Jessica Brophy
While Penobscot East Resource Center is celebrating its 10th year in operation, the eight members of its staff are still often asked what it is the organization does.
With that in mind, said Administrative Director Bobbi Billings, Penobscot East decided to kick of its second annual Winter Series with an evening presentation titled “Who we are.”
A dozen people attended the event, which included a highlight of the organization’s mission and a few of its programs.
Billings said Penobscot East serves fishermen and coastal communities primarily from Penobscot Bay east to Canada. The goal, said Billings, is to help fishermen “fish forever” by helping sustain fishing communities through “community based resource management.” Billings said Penobscot East serves “as the bridge between fishermen and [resource] managers.”
Programs include training for fishermen to better participate in management, involvement in the new Eastern Maine Skippers program currently under development, fisheries licensing and access, lobster quality and handling and more.
Two programs were discussed at length during the talk as examples of the kind of work Penobscot East does. First was the work of Fisheries Policy Associate Patrick Shepard, which focuses on how to preserve access to groundfish licenses. Groundfish include species like hake, cod, pollock, halibut and more. While the groundfish stock is at historic lows with very low catch quotas at the moment, there is some hope that the stock will rebound. When it does, many fishermen will no longer have licenses for groundfish. Shepard works to help license holders pass on unwanted licenses, even those that don’t have any associated landings quotas. Penobscot East also holds two permits with quotas for fish that can be leased by fishermen who wish to diversify their fishery or fish for groundfish.
The second program discussed was a lobster quality study conducted by Penobscot East this summer. Community liaison Holly Eaton, one of the primary researchers on the study, discussed the way it was conducted and its results. The study examined best practices for the handling of lobsters to result in fewer injuries. The goal of studying best practices is to help fishermen implement lobster handling that will help keep lobsters strong, so that there is less shrinkage (lobsters dying en route to processing or market). Less shrinkage could mean a better price for lobster.
Penobscot East will celebrate its 10th anniversary with an open house and fireworks in late July, said Eaton. Penobscot East is also going to offer three workshops at the 38th Annual Fishermen’s Forum in Rockland February 28 through March 2.
The next event in the Winter Series is a presentation on February 21 of the film The Forgotten Maine, about fishing and farming in Maine. For more information, visit penobscoteast.com.