Breaking News
More () »

Teaching the next generation of New England fishers

The New England Young Fishermen's Alliance was created to teach business lessons to young, experienced fishers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Gary Glidden prepares the Last Penny for another day on the water, sharpening knives and warming up the inboard motor.

It's become second nature to the Portsmouth fisherman of 40 years, who has spent 10 of those training 29-year-old Jake Eaton.

Eaton works as a sternman on Glidden's boat, baiting traps, banding lobsters, and cutting bait.

Glidden measures the lobsters and marks every spot traps are set, and every lobster taken. 

The two work 10- to 12-hour days. Not much needs to be said between work partners and family members.

"He was dating my daughter. I needed help, and he needed a job, so it was a fit," Glidden said. "I'm really happy for him. I know he'll do good, and it's the way it should be."

Glidden is talking about the news that Eaton has waited years for, becoming the captain of a lobster boat himself.

Credit: Jack Molmud
Gary Glidden, captain of Last Penny FV, tosses a legal lobster into a bin to be rubber-banded and sold to distributors off the coast of Portsmouth, NH.

Eaton has the boat and a sternman lined up. He's only waiting on a few supplies. 

"It's a pretty neat feeling. It doesn't feel real at all. There was a time for a while when I didn't think it was going to happen, so I'm excited to get out there and start setting some gear," Eaton said.

But while he waits to start on his own lobster boat, he's taking business classes catered to New England fishers.

Andrea Tomlinson, founder and executive director for the New England Young Fishermen's Alliance, said this is the first year the Deckhand to Captain Training Program. It's in full swing, with six experienced young fishers learning the paperwork end of the business.

"We have a nationwide issue called graying of the fleet. We're not seeing the normal succession that we see in the fishing industry when the son or the daughter will take over. We're not seeing that," Tomlinson said. "Fishing is a business. It's not just a trade. Fishermen are their own bosses. There are a lot of hoops to jump through." 

Credit: Jack Molmud
Maine and New Hampshire fishermen are in the 'Deckhand to Captain' training provided by the New England Young Fishermen's Association.

For Glidden, who has been lobstering for 40 years, he said a program like this is valuable.

"You can lose a lot of money just not knowing the business end. You can make just as much money on the paperwork as you can going fishing if you do things right," Glidden said.

One of the lessons taught in the Deckhand to Captain training is teaching fishermen to be present during regulation negotiations by NOAA.

"In order to make change at the policy and management sector for fisheries, you have to be at the table. If you're not at the table, you're on the plate," Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson said when a sector of the fishing industry faces new state or federal regulations, there is usually a period for public comment from the industry.

For Tyler Robillard, a Maine lobsterman, his family started as ground fishermen but moved to lobster after facing increasing regulations.

"Not a lot of people know what they are doing when they first start out. Some of these guys come in at 18 years old and don't know what a 1099 [form] is. They teach that here, so you're set up to succeed," Robillard said.

Eaton, meanwhile, is one of the first fishermen in his class to have the chance of captaining his own boat, which is still on the horizon pending industry delays.

"I'm excited, you know, just to do my own thing. It's a pretty rewarding feeling. And finally getting here, and being a captain, it's been something I wanted to do for a long time now," Eaton said.

The Deckhand to Captain training program has funding for three full years of instruction from the USDA. And with an ever-changing industry for New England's working waterfronts, becoming smarter on the business end is becoming more essential than ever.

More NEWS CENTER Maine stories

Before You Leave, Check This Out