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Down East commercial fishers join in for safety-at-sea training with nonprofit

"It's a great experience for them to do it in a controlled environment rather before having to do it during an actual emergency," John Roberts said.

JONESPORT, Maine — In collaboration with the Maine Lobstermen's Association, both new and seasoned commercial fishermen and lobstermen are taking advantage of free safety trainings this week in Jonesport. 

The nonprofit Fishing Partnership Support Services travels up and down the East Coast each year to offer its full-spectrum safety course.

"Every year we do it from Maine down to North Carolina," Director of Safety Training John Roberts with the nonprofit said. "People who have been on the water a long time end up learning something they didn't know, which is a great feeling."

Roberts said the group likes to make it a habit of meeting in locations near fishing sites to make the course more accessible for locals. Thus, Monday's class was taught at the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Jonesport. 

Throughout the day, instructors ran through mayday signals, firefighting, Narcan distribution, as well as how to put on a full-immersion suit, which is oftentimes required to be on board at all times. 

"It's a great experience for them to do it in a controlled environment rather before having to do it during an actual emergency," Roberts said.

Oftentimes overlooked and stored away, instructors discussed the importance of keeping your suit dry, knowing how and when to put on your suit, as well as how to enter the water while wearing one. 

Students took turns learning how to maneuver in the suits, by first taking the plunge, second by swimming, and third by entering a life raft with them on. 

Student Thea LaMastra has been fishing off of Mount Desert Island and joined the training in hopes to run her own boat someday. She said the hands-on experience is something she's glad to have under her belt. 

"Definitely the whole muscle memory going over things first helps ... Then trying to get back into the life raft is ... It's a workout!" LaMastra said. 

This year's training was free for Maine commercial fishers and their families.

Students who attended both days gain a certificate as a drill conductor, a requirement to obtain a commercial lobstering license in the state. 

Additional trainings are set to be held in Boothbay Harbor on May 25-26.

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