The Lift All Boats Project

A BIPOC student lobstering mentorship program

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The Project

Four intrepid students joined us this year to launch the Lift All Boats Initiative, a student lobster mentorship program built to help diversify Maine's lobster fishery and make it easier for BIPOC Mainers to get licensed. Cristiano, Mogga, Justin, and Joshua lobstered under the mentorship of our co-founders Luke Holden, Jeff Holden, and Ben Conniff, teacher/fisherman Wiley Muller, and lobsterman Steve Train. The students spent 44 hours on the water and the docks learning how to set and haul traps, maintain their gear, and operate a boat safely. Other members of Luke’s senior management team and our partners at Island Institute provided mentorship on business and financial management. The students were able to sell all of their catch to Luke’s Lobster directly after landing at our buy station in Portland, Maine. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the Lift All Boat program next year, they can learn more and apply here

The Why

Today, very few of Maine's 4,500+ lobstermen are people of color. While there are no laws that exclude BIPOC individuals from getting their lobster license, the only way to become a commercial lobstermen is to wait on a decades long wait list or complete a student lobster license program. The student program requires access to mentorship, gear, a boat, and other resources that are only available to current fishermen or industry insiders, almost all of whom are white. This presents a systemic barrier to entry to anyone who's family isn't in the industry.

The Future

Moving forward, we’ll scale this program to make a more significant impact, and our students and their communities will take a leading role in determining how the program evolves to meet their needs. We’ll also share learnings from this program with other industry groups and marine sectors such as kelp and shellfish farming and groundfishing, so they can start their own versions. Over time, we hope we’re just a small part in developing equitable pathways to commercial fishing for all. You can donate directly to the program here. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the Lift All Boat program next year, they can learn more and apply here.