Eastern Maine Skippers Program

Young people in Maine’s fishing communities, whether they fish or not, have a constant view of boats and traps, and other signs of a very traditional and meaningful way of life. With such a vivid connections to the still wild ocean, these young people often require a high school curriculum that meets them where they are, and in a way that is relevant to their unique life experience.

Eastern Maine Skippers Program (EMSP) is an innovative program currently being implemented in eight high schools that serve fishing communities across 200 miles of Eastern Maine.  The program’s focus is on providing students with the core knowledge and skills needed to participate in a co-managed fisheries, working with scientists and regulators to sustain the fisheries they depend upon as well as to run successful and adaptable businesses. A central feature of EMSP is a year-long project in which students work collaboratively with community members like scientists, fishermen, regulators and industry professionals, to investigate serious challenges within the fishing industry, to research, develop and present effective solutions.

Working with teachers and school administrations across the region and with Rural Aspirations Project, EMSP facilitates curriculum development and provides access to scientists, the fishing industry, and community members who bring the same vitality that the students experience outside the classroom into the schools and into education.

Each year, EMSP gives nearly seventy Downeast Maine students, many whom were otherwise unchallenged, uninterested or isolated in high school, the chance to study traditional seamanship and safety skills.  Equally important, students participate in fisheries governance debates, and present their year-long projects on topics such as, comparing the wild harvest of scallops with scallop aquaculture, biofuel production from seaweed, and the importance of healthy watersheds and wild fish.

In an era of proficiency-based education, EMSP students are building relationships, knowledge and skills to graduate high school ready to face the rapidly changing business, science, political and fishing environments of the 21st Century.