By Lisa Cavanaugh
Former Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance policy analyst Ben Martens first fell in love with fisheries work when he was employed by a small non-profit in Boston, but he credits his time with the Fishermen’s Alliance as inspiration for his current job. Martens is back on the Maine coast, where he once pursued environmental studies at Bowdoin College, now serving as Executive Director of Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.
“I see a lot my work here in Maine as building off my experiences on Cape Cod,” says Martens, whose local tenure lasted from 2008 to 2011. “The group of fishermen who started the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association were looking to build stewardship-focused policy in the same way that the Alliance started on Cape Cod… I was able to take my experience about small boats creating a louder voice and apply that here.
“Working with the Massachusetts state-water striped bass fishermen to protect the commercial fishery was some of the most fun work that I did down there. Fishermen were able to come together with a common goal, get up to the State House in Boston, share their voice, and succeed in stopping a bill to make striped bass a game fish in Mass. It’s a small fishery, but really important to the Cape Cod communities and it was great to see the engagement and passion the fishermen brought to that fight. ”
Martens does miss the close-knit fishing community in and around the harbors of Cape Cod.
“Here in Maine our fishermen are spread throughout the coast,” he says. “So it was really special to be able to meet with local fishermen right in Chatham, near our offices, and have off-line discussions about what really mattered to them.”
Martens still spends a lot of time talking to fishermen, and he does a lot of policy work: “I feel my value really is in policy meetings and making sense of complex regulations, but I do wish I could get out on the boats more.”
Both organizations have worked hard on herring campaigns.
“Our boats here in Maine are working on protecting herring in the ecosystem,” he says. “So it was fun to be in the audience (at a recent New England Fishery Management Council meeting) and to see all those fishermen fight for a herring buffer zone off Cape Cod.”
Martens loves his work in Maine, while retaining fond memories of his time on the Cape.
“I got to know a great group there,” he says, “and I was lucky to have them all as teachers.”