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May 16, 2017

Longtime fisheries advocate receives prestigious 'Hero of the Seas' award

Courtesy / Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries
Courtesy / Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries
Robin Alden, executive director of the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, speaks at a gala event May 11 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History after receiving a “Hero of the Seas” award from the international Peter Benchley Ocean Awards.

Robin Alden, executive director of the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, received a prestigious "Hero of the Seas" award from the international Peter Benchley Ocean Awards nonprofit organization.

Named in honor of the author of "Jaws," the 10 annual awards recognize "outstanding achievement across many sectors of society leading to the protection of our ocean, coasts and the communities that depend on them." Alden's award recognizes her career "working at the grassroots, engaging fishermen's knowledge and participation to build sustainable, healthy coastal fisheries and fishing communities."

She received the award at a gala event on May 11 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

"It is just unbelievable to have international recognition for Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries basic approach: that the knowledge fishermen have about the ecology they work in every day is important to a healthy fisheries and our communities," Alden said in a news release.

She added, "This is a great time for this award. Fisheries are at a turning point because climate change is forcing fishery regulators to face the fact that the ocean changes all the time. Constant change makes real time, on-the-ground observation so much more important than the old approach of primarily depending upon abundance predictions. We — fishermen, scientists and regulators — have to learn how to learn and act together."

Four decades of fisheries advocacy

Alden, a one-time commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources under Gov. Angus King, has been a marine grassroots activist for more than 40 years.

For 20 years she was publisher and editor of Commercial Fisheries News, a regional fishing trade newspaper that she founded in 1973. She also was co-founder of the Maine Fishermen's Forum.

After serving as the DMR commissioner from 1995 to 1997, she co-founded the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries in 2003. She also is a founding partner of Downeast Fisheries Partnership.

In January, Alden announced she would retire by the end of the year as executive director of Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries (which changed its name in March from Penobscot East Resource Center). The organization has begun a national search for her successor.

The Ellsworth American reported that under her leadership, the nonprofit has grown since its founding in 2003 into a nonprofit with a dozen employees and an $1.8 million operating budget.

Alden said the "Hero of the Seas" award affirmed her vision of eastern Maine as "a place where we can sustain fishing, forever."

"To sustain fishing communities forever, our mission, requires an approach where fishermen are on the front line not just of catching product but also of contributing to wise ways to manage fisheries," she said.

Read more

Longtime fisheries activist Robin Alden fêted as she retires

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