Editorial – MLA elects new president; now Maine Fishermen’s Forum must also

There’s a changing of the guard at the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) that not only impacts the association’s members, lobster fishermen and others all along the coast, but also the venerable Maine Fishermen’s Forum.

By now you have probably heard that Cutler lobsterman Kristan Porter is taking over the reins of the MLA from long-time president David Cousens.

Cousens stepped down after serving for 27 years as president of the MLA – ending a long commitment of enormous time and energy, as required of the job.

Now Porter — a long-time MLA board member and “president in training” for the last few years — takes over the top position at the largest association serving the state’s biggest and most productive fishery.

He does so during somewhat unsettling times.  Maine lobster landings declined last year – the first significant drop in many years.  While it is too early to call this a trend, fishermen are edgy – trying to understand what changed, why, and what this may mean for catches down the road.

Additionally, there is the right whale issue.  Fixed gear fishermen, rightly or wrongly, are almost certainly going to be forced to make further changes in how they fish — to reduce the likelihood of right whale entangements in gear.  No one who is fishing likes the prospects of these changes.  No one realistically sees any way out of it.

But by most accounts, Porter is the right person for the job at hand.  Unfortunately, the MLA’s gain could be considered the Maine Fishermen’s Forum’s loss.

To make time for his new commitment, Porter recently stepped down as president of the forum board of directors, a position he has held for the past 10 years.

His vision and hard work in that arena will be missed as the forum prepares to elect a new president this summer.

The challenge to that board is to elect someone with the skills needed to help guide the forum’s unique mission:

•  Part public service — a place for fishermen and regulators to meet, grow to know and respect one another, and work cooperatively on the issues affecting commercial fisheries and aquaculture in the region; and

•  Part commercial enterprise – including the largest commercial fishing trade show in New England which helps underwrite the cost of keeping forum programs free to attendees.

It ain’t an easy job.  And just as the MLA has tapped the best talent to lead its mission going forward, the Maine Fishermen’s Forum must soon do the same.  /cfn/

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