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DMR Home > Student Winter Flounder Project

ISLAND STUDENTS EARN PASSING GRADE FROM MARINE RESOURCES COMMISSIONER, PRESENT WINTER FLOUNDER PROJECT FINDINGS

Commmissioner Keliher and Students

From left, Stonington fisherman John Williams, Marine Resources Commissioner Pat Keliher,
and Narraguagus High School 12th grade students Bryce Vane and Devin Schoppee discuss an
innovative, trap-based winter flounder fishery at the Eastern Maine Skippers Program
presentation on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, May 28, more than 50 students from coastal high schools presented their
preliminary findings on the winter flounder project to Maine Commissioner of Marine Resources
Patrick Keliher. The students were joined by two dozen local fisherman, researchers, teachers,
and parents at Waterman’s Community Center in North Haven. The presentation was the
culminating event of the first year of the Eastern Maine Skippers Program. Last September,
Commissioner Keliher assigned the students “homework,” asking them to investigate the
viability of a trap-based, winter flounder fishery and report back to him this spring. “From what I
have seen and heard today,” Commissioner Keliher told the students, “you've all passed with
flying colors.”

Students have been fishing the innovative traps and collecting data on what they catch,
including by-catch, since May 1st. Mount Desert Island High School 9th grade student Nicholas
Lewis was the first student to catch a flounder in the traps. Lewis said, “finally, a project has
come along where we can learn more about fishing while getting much more knowledge about
licensing, regulations, reports, writing proposals, and much more.”

While the students presented their preliminary findings at the event, students plan to continue
experimenting with the winter flounder traps through the summer and into next fall.
Commissioner Keliher commented, “I think it is amazing that students who will graduate from
high school next week are going to see the project through the summer- that tells you how
invested they are in the program.”

“Learning about winter flounder was definitely useful,” according to Deer Isle-Stonington High
School 9th grade student Jacob McGuire. “I learned that it is a lot of work to start a
supplemental fishery. You have to design the traps, figure out where to set them, and get a
special license.”

As part of the Eastern Maine Skippers Program Winter Flounder Project, students:
studied the life history of winter flounder including prey choice, behavior, and habitat
preferences;

  • applied for and received a special license to trap winter flounder from the Department of
    Marine Resources Advisory Council;
  • engineered a flounder trap to maximize the amount of legal flounder caught and minimize bycatch;
  • collected data that will also address the question of whether it is possible to start an
    economically and environmentally sustainable trap fishery in Downeast Maine;
    presented their findings to Patrick Keliher, Commissioner of Marine Resources.

By investigating the viability of a supplemental fishery, students had an opportunity to learn and
practice important skills such as active citizenship, public speaking, interpreting and using data,
and applied science and engineering that will prepare them for modern fishing careers as well
as post-secondary education. The project has further application beyond their high school
education, however, as students are conducting "real-world" research that fishermen and
regulators can use as they seek to sustain the fishing economies which are so important to
Downeast communities.

About the Eastern Maine Skippers Program:
In 2012, Deer Isle Stonington High School and Penobscot East Resource Center collaborated to
create the Eastern Maine Skippers Program. EMSP is a regional program which aims to provide
aspiring commercial fishermen in schools from North Haven to Eastport the skills needed to be
successful fishermen in a time of rapid environmental and regulatory change. A cohort of more
than 40 students from Vinalhaven, North Haven, Deer Isle-Stonington, Ellsworth, MDI and
Narraguagus High Schools as well as George Stevens Academy remain in their schools and
collaborate in the program via technology-based "anytime, anywhere" learning. Students also
meet in person 3-4 times per year to participate in events such as meetings with the Department
of Marine Resources and the Maine Fishermen’s Forum.

For more information about the Eastern Maine Skippers Program, visit https://sites.google.com/
a/dishs.org/msp/eastern-maine-skipper-s-program
. For more information on Penobscot East
Resource Center, visit http://www.penobscoteast.org. For more information about the Maine
Department of Marine Resources visit http://www.maine.gov/dmr.