The FIS Travel Bursary is awarded to applicants with the best proposal for a short international trip that will help further their career and their ability to contribute to the Scottish fishing industry. Nicole Anderson, winner of the 2019 Travel Bursary, works for the Clyde Fisherman’s Trust and travelled to Maine, USA, to meet with the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and attend the Maine Lobster Festival. Here, Nicole reflects on her trip and ideas she’s brought back to try closer to home.
My trip was truly amazing – although I got off to a bit of a rocky start with airport delays the next 10 days more than made up for it.
A large part of my project was looking at the similarities between the Firth of Clyde and the Maine Coast and how we can learn and grow from each other. While visiting the various fishing towns and villages up and down the coast, I realised that the main similarity is that the fishing industry is very much the lifeblood of the communities. It’s much like at home: when fishing is good, its benefits are felt by the whole community.
But while we have many similarities, I also saw differences that the Scottish industry can learn from. The lobster industry in Maine has an apprenticeship scheme that must be completed before you can apply for a commercial license, allowing young people and new entrants to learn about the industry as well as essential skills. A similar sort of scheme could be replicated back home, showing young people the opportunities that fishing can present to them as a career.
I was pleasantly surprised in discovering that, in Maine, fishing is often something that the whole family takes part in. When I visited Tenants Harbor I saw a father, mother and their young son landing their catch after a day out lobstering. Talking to other people about this, I soon learned that it isn’t uncommon to fish as a family and this often makes for some people’s fondest memories.
I don’t think I could pick just one highlight from the trip. Each area I visited offered something a bit different from the last. In Portland, I enjoyed seeing a city where its connection to fishing culture was so apparent. Then, of course, the Lobster Festival allowed me to meet people from across the world and try my first-ever lobster roll. However, something I’ll never forget was sharing a freshly caught lobster in Owls Head that was cooked on the harbour by a local lobsterman!
Overall, I learnt a great deal from my trip and it has given me a lot to take back and apply in the Clyde. Perhaps most important of these lessons is that we need to invest more in our young people, be that through an apprenticeship scheme or something similar to the Eastern Maine Skippers Program offered by the Maine Centre for Coastal Fisheries (which ‘provid[es] students with the core knowledge and skills needed to participate in a co-managed fisheries’). I think the latter would be a great example to follow as it doesn’t focus entirely on the physical skills, but it recognises that fishing is a different job than it has been previously and the education offered needs to reflect this.
I’m extremely grateful to Fisheries Innovation Scotland for this opportunity. I would also like to thank everyone who took the time to meet with me while I was there – I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome.