"There isn't any explicit law excluding people from getting their lobster license, but the only way to break into the industry is to wait in a decades-long waitlist or complete a student program that requires access to mentorship, gear, a boat, and other industry resources. That means most folks who make it in are family of the folks who are already in. The Lift All Boats Project was created to try to make Maine’s most celebrated career more accessible to folks who aren’t insiders. The students are from a variety of different backgrounds, many had no experience on the water or fishing at all, and some even admitted to being afraid to step on a boat. We are so proud of the way they all took on this challenge, got out of their comfort zone, and committed themselves to learning to haul like a pro. It is truly a privilege to get to spend time with them,” shared Ben Conniff, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Luke's Lobster.
A year ago, the Lift All Boats Project set their first mentorship program out to sea. The purpose of the project is to encourage new generations to join Maine’s lobster fishery and make it easier for historically disadvantaged groups to get licensed. Four students lobstered under the mentorship of Luke’s co-founders and instructors, and spent over 50 hours on the water and the docks learning how to set and haul traps, maintain gear, and safely operate a boat. The students were then able to sell all of their catch to Luke’s Lobster directly after landing at the buy station in Portland, Maine.
“XTRATUF wanted to be a part of the mentor program and help out,” said Zach Castagnola, marketing manager for XTRATUF. “Programs like Lift All Boats are doing an excellent job of introducing disadvantaged kids to careers on the water, while at the same time sparking a passion for our waterways and oceans. We were able to donate boots to all of the participants, and will look for ways to further support this incredible program each year moving forward.”
Guided by experienced volunteers, the students started from scratch, spending their days painting buoys, tying them to traps and then heading out into the bay. Every day they were able to see the fruits of their labours by hauling the traps back to shore to see what they had caught.
Shared Shelbi McCarthy, Marketing Manager for Luke’s Lobsters, who runs Lift All Boats, “We want to provide fishing expertise, and the gear that is needed, to young Mainers to help them explore the opportunities the fishing industry has to offer.” Kristan Porter, President of the Maine Lobsterman’s Association and lobsterman from Cutler, Maine adds "There's a certain segment of Maine's population that doesn't have access, or doesn't even know that this way of life exists. But it's part of our heritage...this program brings light to the industry, and that it isn't for privileged people. You can't buy in. You have to work your way in. It is a great lesson to learn when you're young,”.