March can be a pretty sluggish time on the island. Even though the first day of spring is a few weeks away, things are still very much frozen outside. Trivia lovers will have to wait until April to get back into the game, as The Sand Bar is closed for its annual month-long break. Entertainment may be hard to find, but food doesn’t have to be: The Pizza Pit, Surfside and Trickerville Sandwich Shop are still open for business.
A lot of residents got off the island last weekend to attend the 39th annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. Many took advantage of health care enrollment, as well as workshops, seminars and meetings held by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the new Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative and more.
Gov. Paul LePage made an appearance Feb. 28, as well as Susan Collins and Angus King. The senators attended the Fresh Fish Dinner on Friday night and also donated items to the Scholarship Benefit Auction. Some were star-struck by Keith Colburn from The Discovery Channel show “The Deadliest Catch.” The Alaskan king crab fisherman and captain of F/V Wizard was a guest speaker Thursday and discussed the differences between East Coast and West Coast fisheries with the audience. Colburn spent the whole weekend at the forum and took pictures with fans, signed autographs and talked shop with fishermen.
Also in attendance were students from Vinalhaven High School taking part in the Eastern Maine Skippers Program. Vinalhaven is one of seven coastal schools involved in the program’s Winter Flounder Project, in which students, working with the Penobscot East Resource Center and the Maine Department of Marine Resources, are exploring a trap-based winter flounder fishery as a potential emerging industry for Maine. The five seniors and two juniors participating from Vinalhaven presented their flounder traps — which they designed and built with help from vocational technology teacher Mark Jackson — at the forum, along with three other school teams.
“We were glad to see so many Vinalhaven people there and got some good advice on where to test [our traps] out,” said high school math teacher Bryan Feezor, who is also involved with the project.
The 45 student participants obtained a special license to catch winter flounder after applying to the DMR Advisory Council in January. The teams plan to swap traps and field test each model while collecting data to determine “whether it is possible to start an economically and environmentally sustainable trap fishery in Downeast Maine,” according to the Maine Department of Education. The students are scheduled to meet with the commissioner of Marine Resources in May to present their findings.
Back on the island, about 40 people attended the Vinalhaven Economic Development Plan’s first public meeting Feb. 25 in the school cafeteria. The group discussed possible business opportunities and job creation, as well as the future of Vinalhaven’s economy, including lobstering, tourism, and how to get graduating students to return to the island. Another meeting will be held in a month to discuss how to build upon the community’s current assets. The plan is part of a study facilitated by the Island Institute and is endorsed by the town’s selectmen and the Vinalhaven Chamber of Commerce.
In search of warmer weather, I will be traveling out of state for a few weeks but will resume the column the first week of April. If you have any news to include when I return, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next month!