Fishing heritage showcased at Meet the Fleet

Net-mending, shucking, and a legendary Coast Guard motor lifeboat featured at 4th annual event.

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Crowds roamed the docks Thursday alongside a flotilla of fishing, law enforcement, and vintage vessels at the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust’s fourth annual Meet the Fleet celebration in Menemsha.

With the band Good Night Louise playing off the stern of the lobster boat Martha Elizabeth, families boarded the 1947 dragger Roann, the 1928 dragger Little Lady, the 1946 Coast Guard motor lifeboat CG36500, the Environmental Police patrol boat the Thomas Paine, and the scallop boat Endurance, among other vessels.

Up on the bulkhead, Trust executive director Shelley Edmundson led a fish-printing table while shellfish enthusiasts gobbled up freshly shucked $1 oysters. Nearby, children delighted in crab races, and Katie Thompson served up fluke and yellowfin sashimi from Karsten Larsen’s kiosk. When Trust president John Keene and board member Wes Brighton came to a microphone, the attendees gathered round.

“Our board is really trying to help the commercial fishing industry stay afloat and thrive,” Keene said. “One constraint has been the feeling of hopelessness and pessimism in recent years about the fishery. And unfortunately, the hopelessness and the pessimism is really just a license to give up. And since this industry is based on the environment and being stewards of the environment, if you give up on the industry, you give up on maintaining and having a need to keep the environment alive and well.”

“It’s really important that we all get behind the small independent fishermen,” Brighton said. “What we’re seeing right now is a lot of our permits going to larger corporate consolidations. To keep small working waterfronts like this one going, we need to make sure we can have access to permits. And so that’s our mission in this organization, and we really hope we can keep it going.”

Not long after Keene and Brighton spoke, mariners Karsten Larsen, Stanley Larsen, Denny Jason, and Matt Mayhew squared off in a fast-paced net-mending competition that saw Karsten Larsen handily beat his peers.

Later on, scalloper Sam Hopkins, who has brought several catches of sea scallops to port in Menemsha thanks to opportunities provided by the Trust, won a shucking competition. Present along with other state officials, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton described Meet the Fleet as “my favorite event of the year.”