Crowds streamed along Menemsha’s docks last Thursday for the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust’s third annual Meet the Fleet, both a celebration of the Island’s fishing community and a fundraising event for the trust that supports it. “I think it was the best one yet,” trust director Shelly Edmundson said.
The three-hour event grossed approximately $20,000 from a silent auction, sponsorships, clothing sales, donations, rawbar sales, and tips given by the band Good Night Louise, which entertained visitors off the deck of Martha Elizabeth, a fishing boat owned by trust founder Wes Brighton.
The event included crab races, and shucking and net-mending competitions. The Coast Guard, environmental police, and numerous commercial fishing vessels — most of which the public could board — were on hand, along with the refurbished 20th century wooden draggers Roann and Little Lady. According to Ms. Edmundson, the Roann made the six-hour journey from its home at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, while the Little Lady still actively plies Vineyard waters.
Aaron Williams, who won the net-mending competition, brought his trawler Tradition to Menemsha, where it docked less than 100 feet from the Roann, his father’s former vessel—one Mr. Williams crewed on as a kid.
“The Roann is really the backbone of the event,” Ms. Edmundson said.
Oysters offered at a buck each were donated to the event by Island oyster farmers. These included the Broderick family’s Chilmark oysters, Matt Mayhew’s Menemsha Creek oysters, and Jeremy Scheffer’s Spearpoint oysters.
One person of particular note at Meet the Fleet was Sam Hopkin, captain of the Endurance. Mr. Hopkins is leasing a sea scallop quota recently purchased by the trust for $1 million.
Trust president John Keene said the annual lease Mr. Hopkins received is a boon for maintaining the Island’s fishing community and an uplift for the local economy. He noted that fishermen have a multiplier effect on the job markets of the the ports they serve at a ratio of one to four, meaning all sorts of other occupations benefit from fishermen: welding, wholesaling, restaurant work, and fuel sales, for examples.
Ms. Edmundson said Mr. Keene was a tremendous fundraiser for the trust, and did his best work from the seat of his lucky D6 Caterpillar bulldozer. While he emphasized all the trust members did a great job raising the funds necessary to acquire the sea scallop quota, he admitted that for a two-month period while working on the grounds of his West Tisbury business, he made one call a day from the bulldozer. The sea scallop fishery has been deemed “100 percent sustainable,” he said.
Ms. Edmundson said that fresh sea scallops will arrive on the Island next week when Mr. Hopkins brings his first catch to port. Seafood wholesalers sometimes dip their sea scallops in preservatives that keep them moist and plump, a fact which many consumers are unaware of, she said. Mr. Hopkins’ catch will be fresh and undipped.
The trust also recently acquired the permit of the late Luke Gurney, a deeply missed trust board member, according to Mr. Keene. The permit includes conch, sea bass, and scup. His widow wanted the permit to remain on-Island, he said.
Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matt Beaton attended Meet the Fleet aboard the environmental police boat Thomas Paine, out of Boston.
“The Menemsha Meet the Fleet has quickly become one of my favorite events, as it provides me with the unique opportunity to connect with local residents to discuss the cultural and economic importance of preserving Menemsha Harbor,” Mr. Beaton wrote in an email to The Times. “I appreciate the hands-on aspect of Menemsha Meet the Fleet, as well as the chance to speak with industry representatives about ways in which the Baker-Polito administration can continue to protect and preserve the commonwealth’s vibrant and economically significant commercial fishing industry.”