Fishermen in communities throughout downeast Maine are mostly inshore and small scale, with smaller boats that stay within a day’s trip of home. The key to sustainability in these communities is having diverse marine resources that fishermen can pursue throughout the year, perhaps fishing for shrimp in the winter, scallops in spring, and lobster in summer. But currently, fishermen in downeast Maine are more than 90% dependent on one species – lobster. As robust as the populations have been in recent years, over dependence on one species is a risky strategy, particularly with changing climate and ocean conditions. The Downeast Groundfish Initiative (DEGI) is a multifaceted process of science, policy, and collaboration to rebuild and protect diverse stocks of groundfish, provide access to fishing rights, and assure profitability.
The initiative is guided by three principles:
- To protect ecosystem structure and function, especially groundfish spawning areas, nursery ground and other critical habitats by controlling how, when and where fishing is conducted
- To create healthy, resource-based communities through partnerships among fishermen, community members, managers and scientists
- To support a diversified coastal fishery based on equitable access to resources, principle-based governance and sound science.