Island Students Earn Passing Grade from Marine Resources Commissioner, Present Winter Flounder Project Findings

Post date: May 29, 2014 10:33:17 PM


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.

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.”

Downeast Maine is home to the two most fishing dependent counties on the east coast of the United States. Not only is fishing so important to these communities, lobster makes up over 80% of the total catch! That makes this area precariously dependent on a single species. What would we need to know to diversify and create a new fishery in Maine?

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 fishermen, 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

MDI High School 9th grade student Nicholas Lewis shows off the first legal winter flounder caught in a trap designed by students from North Haven and Vinalhaven.

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.

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.

From left to right, Deer Isle-Stonington High School Marine Trades teacher Tom Duym and Ellsworth High School 9th grade students Jillian Dow, Jack McKechnie, and Hayden Sattler cross Penobscot Bay on a lobster boat.

For more information about the Eastern Maine Skippers Program, visit  

For more information on Penobscot East Resource Center, visit  

For more information about the Maine Department of Marine Resources visit