Long before I ever picked up a fly rod, I was hauling fish on the decks of commercial fishing boats, off the coast of Maine, as the onboard scientist for a commercial fishery-style survey evaluating groundfish (Atlantic cod, Atlantic halibut, haddock, hake, etc.). I was 22, a graduate student at the University of Maine studying marine biology and marine policy.

My classroom was the deck of a boat.

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Photo by Megan Hess

The fisheries research survey I was part of, known as the Eastern Gulf of Maine Sentinel Survey (Sentinel Survey), was started eight years ago as a collaboration between the University of Maine and Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries (MCCF), a non-profit organization that focuses on coastal fishing, community-based marine science and policy. The Sentinel Survey began as a response to the commercial collapse of groundfish in eastern Maine. The region is sparsely sampled by federal and state monitoring programs, so the Sentinel Survey, a local, collaborative program, was built to provide data on groundfish species in data-limited eastern Maine. My role was to collect data on species abundance, distribution, and biology, as well as to facilitate the collaborative platform between the University, MCCF, and the fishermen who participated in the survey program.

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Photo by Kevin Job