New England's Adopt a Boat brings commercial fishing home to kids

PHOTO/James MacPherson/AJOC
welchlanieLR.jpg Commercial fishing is often referred to as the invisible industry, because for the most part, it’s conducted far from shore and out of sight. That fosters a lack of awareness and understanding of the importance of the industry, especially by those who don’t reside in coastal communities.

To counteract that, educators and fishermen in New England have launched a joint program called Adopt a Boat, which directly links commercial fishing with classrooms.

It takes students from kindergarten through high school and pairs them with harvesters to give the kids a more accurate picture of the fishing life. The students get to see fishermen at work by taking day trips on their boats and observing the technical aspects of fishing, boat safety, navigation and conservation techniques.

The Adopt-a-Boat program, which is funded by the Northeast Consortium, was created and organized by New England fisherman and some big guns, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sea Grant College Program, Gulf of Maine Aquarium, North Atlantic Marine Alliance and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

According to the project’s mission statement, the goal is "to use commercial fishing boats as a vehicle for teaching the complexities of marine resource utilization, marine ecology and life as a fisherman to K-12 students. In addition, we will facilitate the presentation of a balanced picture of commercial fishing, helping to build an enlightened citizenry regarding marine resource utilization and its importance to coastal communities."

So far, eight vessel captains have joined with 11 schools in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont for the first year of the program. Adopt a Boat includes a variety of vessel types fishing the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank. Each boat is linked with a partnering classroom in the same geographic region as the vessel’s home port. In the second year, the program will expand to include roughly 100 classrooms across New England.

Vessels are compensated for any boat time required to fulfill their classroom partnerships, and the captain and crew are paid for meetings, class visits and other shore activities associated with the project.

Schools are also compensated for direct costs associated with their Adopt-a-Boat participation and are outfitted with the technologies required to meet the requirements of their partnership, such as digital cameras and Internet access. Partnerships range from daily involvement to occasional or short-term, focused interactions, the details of which are worked out among the teachers, skippers and project staff.

One fisherman said he is participating in the program to counter the image that most fishermen spend their free time hanging out in bars or using drugs, as portrayed in the movie, "The Perfect Storm."

"There are good family men who take their kids to soccer practice, go to church, have mortgages, are real people," Vincent Balzano told Working Waterfront.

Cam McLellan, owner of the 72-foot dragger Adventurer, took four students from environmental studies classes at a New Hampshire school for an overnight trip in September, which ended with a visit to the nation’s first display auction in Portland, Maine. A week later, he visited two classes at the school and answered questions from 60 students.

McLellan told the Fish Info Service that he will introduce math students to the challenges of net building and history students to the rich history of commercial fishing in subsequent visits. For more information, see (

Samples boost sales

When you believe you have a superior product, one of the most effective marketing tactics is to send samples of your product to buyers. The Norwegian Seafood Export Council is doing just that. According to, the NSEC is sending packages of frozen farmed salmon products to about 1,000 food service and distribution companies across the United States. The response rate so far has reportedly been favorable, with 70 responses from the first 200 samples sent out.

Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

11/25/2001 - 8:00pm