By Doreen Leggett
Kayla Boucher, a ninth-grader at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, joined by her classmates, had some questions of Captains Ken Baughman and Bradley Louw at the WaterWORKS career day at Cape Cod Community College in mid-January.
What was your longest trip? Six days.
Biggest boat you fished on? 138 feet.
How big is your boat now? Smaller.
Do you oyster farm? No, but it is a sustainable fishery and good for the environment.
How much money do you make? One time I made $56,000 in less than a week.
And one favorite question from Boucher: How far do you have to go out?
“We told her that some of the best fishing grounds in the world are in our backyard,” Baughman said.
That answer is in keeping with the mission of WaterWORKS, started in 2019 by the Cape Cod Blue Economy Foundation, part of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, to introduce high school students to the wealth of local careers in the Cape’s Blue Economy.
“I think it really opens kids’ eyes. We lose so many kids who just aren’t aware of the opportunities,” said Allison Paine, volunteering at the event held on a snowy Tuesday.
It is important to keep bright, talented kids on Cape, she said, after moderating a “career corner” featuring Louw, who has a lobster boat and a scalloper, and Jay Lustig, a representative from Mitre, a Blue Tech company.
Chloe Starr and Abigail Archer were sitting nearby at an informational table talking about Aquaculture Research Corporation, ARC, a shellfish hatchery in Dennis. ARC was one of 50 exhibitors, spread across two buildings.
Growing up both Starr and Archer were drawn to the ocean, but the only career they heard about was marine biology; Starr wanted to work with turtles and Archer with penguins. It wasn’t until they were older that they realized there are many other possibilities.
Starr is now Operations Manager at ARC’s hatchery and Chapin Sea Farms, which sells and distributes shellfish. Archer is Fisheries & Aquaculture Specialist at Cape Cod Cooperative Extension Marine Program and Woods Hole Sea Grant.
Growing up in Barnstable, Starr started shellfishing recreationally with her dad. Now she helps make sure the Cape’s recreational and commercial fisheries stay strong, spawning shellfish and distributing seed.
“Anyone who is farming shellfish gets them from a hatchery,” she said.
Tess Dunleavy, who grew up in Barnstable, and Elizabeth Marsjanik, whose parents still live on Lewis Bay, have similar stories. They left the Cape to return and find careers in wind energy at home. Both were keynote speakers at the event, along with Lily Elmore. They work for Vineyard Offshore Wind as environmental compliance officer and senior manager of environmental affairs respectively.
“I wanted to be part of changing business as usual,” said Marsjanik.
Greg Dolan, 17, of Woods Hole, knows the career he wants to pursue. He headed straight to the Fishermen’s Alliance table.
“They are the people I really want to talk to today,” Dolan said.
He fishes for bluefish, scup and striper and has hit the docks on Cape and New Bedford seeking job opportunities.
Both Louw and Baughman gave Dolan advice and helped him fill out his commercial rod and reel permit. Louw said the Fishermen’s Alliance has a Fisherman Training program and helped get the federal Young Fishermen’s Development Act passed. Both the program and the act are designed to introduce the next generation to commercial fisheries and provide education.
Dolan wasn’t the only one with experience.
Christian Gonsalves, 14, who goes to Falmouth High, goes fishing in the summer with his grandfather John Small. He loves everything about it, he said.
“I don’t like being inside,” he smiled.
They often leave the Chatham Fish Pier at 3 a.m. to catch dogfish, which they sell to Red’s Best, he said. They go longlining, baited hooks set along a line that can extend a mile and after a few hours they will bring the catch in. His grandfather is one of the few fishermen who still fish this way, he said.
Sean Beal, who goes to Cape Cod Technical High School, also is interested in commercial fisheries. He works on an aquaculture farm in Barnstable where he lives and goes lobstering out of Nauset inlet with a friend. He has his student lobster license.
Marius Louw, engineer on his older brother Bradley’s scalloper, started fishing a year ago at his brother’s urging. He found himself surprisingly OK that the wind had kept the boat ashore and he was attending an outreach event. He typically likes to be in the background.
“I never had this opportunity,” he said as he watched students stop in to talk, adding he would have started fishing sooner if he and Bradley had been introduced to it earlier.
Marius feels WaterWORKS is particularly important on the Cape, where all the towns are inter-dependent and surrounded by water.
“Cape Cod is very much community-based and thrives off the ocean,” he said.