The Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust held its yearly Meet the Fleet festival Thursday afternoon in Chilmark, raising funds for and celebrating local commercial fishermen.
Fishermen lined up their boats along Dutcher’s Dock in Menemsha, for the hundreds in attendance to tour and ask questions.
The event also featured fresh seafood, games, live music from Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, and more.
For the many children in attendance, an especially popular event was the green crab race, in which pieces of fish were dangled ahead of members of the invasive species.
Also popular was the fish-print booth, at which attendees imprinted their shirts with paint-covered fish.
First-time attendees Jonathan and Julie Coe, who had just finished marking a white sweater, were pleasantly surprised with all the activities: “We came up to Menemsha thinking it was gonna be quiet — the other end of the Island, as far up-Island as you can get away from the hustle and the bustle — and look!”
Halfway through the event, a whirring came across the sky — a Coast Guard helicopter flying in from the West. It ended up just off Menemsha Beach, where it executed a mock rescue in front of a large crowd, pulling a diver from the rippling water via cable, and lifting him into the hovering whirlybird.
Meet the Fleet, which raises about $60,000 on an average year from sponsors, donors, and attendees, helps the Preservation Trust in efforts such as the Seafood Collaborative program. Edmundson said the program runs a wholesale seafood market.
“We do sales at the farmers market … [the program also offers] community-supported fishery shares, where people can sign up for bulk seafood — all local, flash-frozen, beautiful seafood — that they pick up monthly at the farmers market,” Edmundson said.
The trust also helps secure fishing permits for the next generation of Island fishermen, after older fishermen retire.
“Permits leave because they go up for sale on the market, and other people who might have funds and can scoop it up faster are able to jump and grab it,” Edmundson said. “[We help fishermen] have the permit to then continue their business plan, and offer loans so they can fish while [they] continue making payments.”
Matteus Scheffer of West Tisbury, deckhand on Nick Wilbur’s Littlefeet, highlighted Meet the Fleet as a social opportunity during high season. “This is the most productive time of the year for us,” Wilbur said. “So it’s a nice event to just get people together, and also to bring the community closer to the fishermen.”
Scheffer also had praise for the trust. “The Preservation Trust definitely helps us out with ice,” he said. “They’ve just been a really helpful organization when it comes to helping us out with places to store fish, and buy fish, and also provide a market for us. It feels like home working with them.”