Skipper Students go International

Immediately following final presentations in May, seven Eastern Maine Skippers Program (EMSP) students, as well as teachers, chaperones, and EMSP staff, struck off for a 5-day trip to explore Canada’s lobster fishery in Prince Edward Island (PEI). The opportunity allowed the traveling skippers to compare first hand, Maine’s lobster fishery to PEI’s. Organized by Rural Aspiration Program’s (RAP) Val Peacock with assistance from, MCCF’s Christina Fifield, the students, chaperones, and staff were engaged in an intensive tour and experience of fisheries management, regulation and hands-on experience fishing out of Fortune Harbor on the eastern side of PEI. Our good friend and host, Edwin McKee and his wife Freda, assisted in organizing the trip.

Once the group arrived in PEI, they met with staff and members of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association, which involved a tour of their facility and learning about the active role the association has in the advocacy of the island’s 1200 fishermen. The skippers learned about the organization’s responsibility to track and distribute gear tags, collect and provide data, and seek or conduct research. We also learned that the organization offers training for not only fishermen but any seafood processor or retailer that requests it.

From there, the group visited Souris Regional School, located in the neighboring town next to Fortune where they were staying. The skippers were welcomed by the school’s principle who has a strong interest in developing a formal program similar to EMSP for its students with similar fishing backgrounds and interest as ours. Our students had the opportunity to present in front of their student body where they explained their final projects and answered questions about Maine’s fisheries. Then the real fun began – the skippers were shown around the school and local shops. The positive interaction between the students has inspired the idea of a potential student exchange program in the future!

Day two involved a visit to one of PEI’s local fishing gear stores where skipper students chatted with area fishermen and even spent time comparing prices and equipment to those back home. Next up, the group took to the road where they traveled to a lobster grading and processing plant in North Lake. The day ended with a “private” tour of the local fisheries museum. It should be noted that wherever the group went, locals were very welcoming and patient and showed exemplary hospitality throughout the trip.

Skipper students ended their trip the best way possible – spending time on the water. The skippers began their day at 3:30 am where Edwin, arranged for five boats to take the group in pairs out lobster fishing for the day out of Bay Fortune. After spending some time observing their neighbors, the skippers jumped in and worked on the deck.

The experience was an opportunity for EMSP skippers along with their teachers and program staff, to better understand the neighboring country’s lobster fishery first hand and vice-versa. It is with great hope that this trip can become an annual event and even open doors to the start of a student exchange program. Trips like this are invaluable to the understanding and future involvement of today and tomorrow’s fishermen and stewards. To make a donation and learn more about the Eastern Maine Skippers Program visit us at our website and don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook.