It feels like it was the last hurrah, thinking back to the Maine Fishermen’s Forum last year, held March 5-7 at the Samoset Resort in Rockland. It was the 46th event that drew fishermen from throughout the state. The purpose is to share information and experiences about everything from advances in groundfishing gear to discussions about wind energy. And to enjoy good company too. There’s an annual Seafood Banquet and Auction as well as social events throughout the three-day forum.

This year, things will, of course, be different. But, true to the persistent and flexible nature of the fishing community, there will still be opportunities for conversations about important topics facing Maine’s fishing fleet. The very first of these will address shellfish. Shellfish Focus Day usually marks the kick-off of the Forum. It’s almost like the pre-game event since it happens early in the program. But, its audience has been growing every year, to the point that last year it was hard to find a seat in the large auditorium.

Perhaps that’s an advantage to holding things virtually, there is no limit to participation. Usually, the room would be packed with shellfish harvesters, marine wardens, researchers and educators, but this year it is easier for a broader audience to tune in. That’s because each of the three sessions being held over Zoom will be rebroadcast on 89.9FM WERU radio’s Coastal Conversations. Topics to be covered include shellfish conservation projects and a discussion of shellfish markets and supply chains – which have faced additional challenges during the pandemic.

The first Zoom meeting, “Shellfish harvesting for the future: A conversation featuring stories and lessons learned in town shellfish conservation projects,” will be held on Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. and will be rebroadcast on Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. It will be a discussion of conservation efforts to restore wild shellfish populations. That includes growing clam seed and keeping tabs on water quality to improve the health of mudflats. In Brunswick, for example, the town is working on growing baby clams to planting size to repopulate areas for potential future harvest.

There’s a team of people working together to present the programs. The first session will be co-hosted by Dr. Bridie McGreavy from the University of Maine Department of Communication and Journalism and the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions along with Natalie Springuel of Maine Sea Grant. Pre-registration for the sessions is not required. Those interested can join by phone or Zoom. For more information about this session or the next two programs, email Bridie McGreavy ([email protected]). These sessions are planned for March and April.

So, if you are interested in learning more about the shellfish resources in Maine, tune in to these live sessions or listen to the follow-up broadcast. You can listen online at WERU.org or with the WERU app. The station’s Coastal Conversations webpage has all the details. There are plenty of opportunities to learn about other fisheries in the state as well, with information on the Maine Fishermen’s Forum website. And perhaps you can hold your own Seafood Banquet at home by buying something local and tasty to support Maine’s fishing fleet.

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