Robin Alden wins more accolades



STONINGTON — Robin Alden, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries’ executive director, has been recognized as a “Hero of the Seas,” as a winner of the international Peter Benchley Ocean Awards.

Alden was recognized for her career working at the grassroots, engaging fishermen’s knowledge and participation to build sustainable, healthy coastal fisheries and fishing communities.

The awards ceremony took place at a gala on Thursday, May 11, at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

“It is just unbelievable to have international recognition for Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries’ basic approach: that the knowledge fishermen have about the ecology they work in every day is important to a healthy fisheries and our communities,” Alden said in a statement last Friday.

“This is a great time for this award,” she said. “Fisheries are at a turning point because climate change is forcing fishery regulators to face the fact that the ocean changes all the time. Constant change makes real time, on-the-ground observation so much more important than the old approach of primarily depending upon abundance predictions. We — fishermen, scientists and regulators — have to learn how to learn and act together.

“To sustain fishing communities forever, our mission, requires an approach where fishermen are on the front line not just of catching product but also of contributing to wise ways to manage fisheries.”

The international Peter Benchley Ocean Awards acknowledge outstanding achievement across many sectors of society leading to the protection of the ocean, coasts and the communities that depend on them. Co-founded by Wendy Benchley and David Helvarg, and named in honor of Peter Benchley, author of “Jaws,” the awards celebrate the life and legacy of a man who spent more than 40 years educating the public and expanding awareness of the importance of protecting sharks and ocean ecosystems.

One of 10 categories of award, the Hero of the Seas Award is given to “a marine grassroots activist who has made a major and long-term commitment to improving the quality of our seas and the communities that depend on them.”

Alden’s experience over her four-decade career fits these criteria. For 20 years she was publisher and editor of Commercial Fisheries News, a regional fishing trade newspaper that she founded in 1973. She was a co-founder of the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. She was commissioner of Marine Resources from 1995 to 1997 before co-founding Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries in 2003. She also has been a founding partner of Downeast Fisheries Partnership.

Alden’s vision is that eastern Maine will be a place that can sustain fishing, forever. This award acknowledges that vision and all the work she has done to achieve “fishing forever.”