ROCKPORT — The weathermen may be predicting snow for the weekend but Maine fishermen, or at least the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, say that spring is nearly upon us.
The 43rd annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum gets under way on Thursday at the Samoset Resort in Rockport.
The event features three days of seminars and workshops that bring fishermen from the along the entire New England coast together with: state and federal fisheries scientists, regulators and managers; political incumbents and hopefuls; and maritime enterprises hawking everything from new lobster boats and giant diesel engines to lobster traps, marine electronics, refrigeration systems and foul weather gear.
“This is our biggest trade show ever,” forum Coordinator Chiloa Young said Monday.
The forum also draws a variety of nonprofit organizations involved in fisheries research and conservation, preservation of working waterfronts and similar marine-related causes.
There is also no shortage of social opportunities, including an opening day seafood reception Thursday evening, the fresh fish dinner on Friday and the final banquet and dinner dance Saturday.
Thursday is Shellfish Day, with programs relating to the economics and business innovation in the shellfish industry.
On Friday, the forum will host programs relating, among other topics, to new herring fishing rules, electronic monitoring of fishing vessels and the increasingly fraught issue of the coexistence of the lobster fishery and endangered right whales. The Maine Lobstermen’s Association will hold its 64th Annual Meeting, and mark the retirement of David Cousens after 27 years as the organization’s president.
Friday is also the day for political visitors. According to Young, U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) will be on hand between 9:30 and 11 a.m., Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) will visit during the morning and Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) is planning to attend the fresh fish dinner in the evening.
Saturday will include annual meetings for the state’s elver fishermen’s and alewife harvesters associations, a preview of the summer lobster boat racing season and seminars on scallop aquaculture, the status of current scientific research at the Department of Marine Resources and programs on such esoterica as the burgeoning scallop aquaculture industry and the development of a viable fishery for invasive green crabs in New England waters.
Also on tap Saturday is a water survival training program featuring “get wet” training in the Samoset pool, where fishermen can familiarize themselves with the use of personal floatation devices, “survival” suits and liferafts.
The forum also will announce this year’s recipients of awards from its annual scholarship fund, supported by silent and live auctions, for college-bound children of Maine fishing families. To date, the fund has raised more than $358,000 for scholarships.