Mike Dassatt doing some fancy rope work at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum.
When it comes to the Commercial Fishing World, I was told early on by one of our Commissioners, George LaPointe, when I was learning to blend with the people that I would meet at the industry meetings, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions.” This was the best advice that I can pass along. I was also told, “If you don’t have the answers, do what is right.” You can’t go wrong with that advice, can you?
I was transitioning from coming from a fifth generation fishing family, boat building family and shipping industry family to Executive Director of the Downeast Lobsterman’s Association. This is a position that to this day, I am honored to represent. My only drawback at the time, I didn’t see myself as a leader! Although, I am very happy to have this privilege and have learned a lot along the way. They say that you need to learn something every day of your life, so I try. The big thing is again, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions.” Quite often, I will hear everyone’s opinion, draw my conclusions and then end my discussion with a question. It’s kind of like a “cliff hanger.” To be continued at the next gathering. This also comes in handy when we have these comment periods on the new bills that are introduced at the Legislature. We need to think these things through before we jump on it and draw the wrong conclusions.
I have also learned that just because one group makes a statement, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the right answer. Everyone is entitled to express their own opinions. There is no right or wrong when it comes to expressing ones’ opinion as long as it is respectful of the other folks. Sit, listen and hear what is being said. Nothing drives me crazier than being at a meeting and having people raise their hands before they know what they are going to say or they don’t raise their hands at all, just jump in. Let’s save some room and space for the quiet ones to speak. We don’t want to miss a single opinion in this industry, this is very important to each one of us. Have you ever left a meeting disappointed because you didn’t get a chance to speak before the meeting was adjourned? I have. This is why the comment periods are good. I can sit down and write my thoughts and concerns and send them in. This is also why associations are valuable. If these things happen, I am more than happy to have a fisherman or wife call me and state their thoughts. Then we take them to the meetings and express how we all feel. I have made some close friends by doing it this way. I love to talk with the fishermen’s wives, they are the “salt of the earth.” Most fishermen’s wives will let you know how they feel and where we all stand. This is great! In the process, I might gain a good recipe or two and see a picture of a grandchild or two.
One of my most recent questions is “Where has the Moxie gone?!” Right after Christmas in our local supermarket, there was no more Moxie. How can Maine folk like me and a lot of others function without it? The other question that is very recent is “where is all of the toilet paper?” My goodness, I know that no one wants the latest virus that is scaring everyone into seclusion, but we all need toilet paper. Guess we won’t need to eat, there’s been plenty of food still on the shelves. Just food for thought…
A lot of questions that we’ve had lately is concern for marking purple rope legally. The purple markings are to protect whales on our lobster gear. We are happy to help with these questions. What about bait this year? Well, there’s talk about letting fishermen catch their own bait within a certain limit. Keep asking about it, this is a big help. What about Climate Change, plastics in the ocean, underwater cables, wind energy? How many traps can we have on a trawl, what about safety due to too many traps on a trawl.
There’s a lot of these concerns and questions, and please, keep asking them. At this point in time, we still have an independent fishery, and can have a say about the outcome of these questions. It’s wonderful to see fishermen representing us in the House of Representatives. This is what we need in our coastal communities. Don’t be afraid to contact one of our representatives with your concerns. They also will speak for us with these issues that we are facing. The last time that I was in Augusta, it did my heart good to see so many younger fishermen testifying. This is a step in the right direction for sure.
When my Dad got older and near the end of his life, a friend of mine said, ask him as many questions as you can, if you don’t, you will regret it because it will be gone forever. Well, you know, they were so right. I have questions that I would really like to ask him and my mother, and the only answers that I can find are written on the back of old photographs. We all need to save these old family stories and memories. They are priceless. This is my best advice to all of you and Thank you to all that have helped me along the way.