Sustainable Seafood Program at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute

This summer, I interned with the Sustainable Seafood Program at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine. GMRI is a non-profit focused on science, education, and community, primarily within coastal and marine ecosystems. Some of the main goals of the organization are to empower innovation and to provide valuable research and information to scientists, consumers, and even younger generations to generate interest in science and sustainability.

During my ten weeks at GMRI, I conducted research in the office, over the phone, and in the field as I tackled the question: Can GMRI include wild-harvest shellfish in the Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested (GoMRH) branding program? This branding program essentially assures consumers that the seafood they are buying was harvested and processed within the Gulf of Maine, and that it follows GMRI’s criteria for being sustainable, or “responsibly harvested”. GMRI has already verified 10 species through its branding program and is continually working to add species to the list.

Although I worked with the Sustainable Seafood team, the majority of my work this summer was conducted independently. I worked under the guidance of the Sustainable Seafood team manager, but had complete control of the scope of my research and how I wanted to conduct it. I began my experience by familiarizing myself with everything: the staff, the building, the schedule, the work ethic, and the material that I would be dealing with over the summer. Once I was familiar with everything, including the various shellfish species and the shellfish industry in the Gulf of Maine, I began reading documents and exploring federal, state, and town websites to figure out how various areas manage their shellfish. After I felt comfortable with the topic, I began calling and meeting with marine wardens, scientists, harvesters, and resource management officials on the local, state, and federal levels in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Nova Scotia.

My experiences throughout the research process produced various sentiments for me. I came across many difficulties and road blocks where I became unsure about my research and if I was going about my work the right way; I encountered several people that gave me a new perspective on what I was doing and made me really think about how I approached my project; I learned how to better manage my time, set deadlines for myself and get things done efficiently; and finally, I learned that dedicated, community-based, and welcoming coworkers are invaluable, and they have a significant effect on the work ethic and productivity of an organization. There were twelve other interns at GMRI this summer participating in various projects, and each intern was treated with an overwhelming amount of respect and support, which made the experience extremely gratifying for all of us.

My experience at GMRI gave me a very useful insight into the legislative side of resource conservation and management, as well as the important role that consumer demand can also play in this process. Not only did I enjoy my time at GMRI this summer, but my interest in marine policy also grew and I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge within this field. I learned many valuable lessons through my internship this summer, and I would like to thank Colby for the generous contribution to make this experience possible.