Bowen’s Tavern in Belfast was the destination for lobstermen and lobster lovers on Saturday, April 6, where an evening to raise money for the Maine Lobstermen’s Association Legal Defense Fund took place. The MLA is the state’s oldest fishermen’s organization, founded in 1954.

A crowd of hungry people turned up for some Louisiana-style jambalaya cooked by Belfast’s own John McMillan. McMillan runs McMillan Offshore Survival Training, which offers Coast Guard-approved survival classes to those who work on the water. McMillan and his small crew mixed up the savory stew in huge cooking pots just outside the tavern’s back door. Hamburgers and hot dogs were also available, along with homemade desserts and Moxie. All the food was free, with donations accepted.

Inside, bluegrass band The Itinerant Visitors, led by Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries director Paul Anderson, kept toes tapping and people on the dance floor. Anderson encouraged the audience to take part in the business raffle, with proceeds also benefiting the Legal Defense Fund. Local businesses donated items ranging from fishing gear to gift certificates for local restaurants. By the end of the evening, donations and the raffle raised almost $2,000 for the fund.

The Legal Defense Fund allows the MLA to take part in a legal battle against proposed changes to the federal whale rules — changes expected to have a severe impact on the state’s lobster fishery. The MLA is currently an intervenor in a court case involving the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Endangered Species Act.

MLA Executive Director Patrice McCarron said, “We are very aware that Maine lobstermen are not the cause of whale entanglements; however, there is no denying we have a lot of rope in the water. At this point we know that the law is clear that lobstermen will be required to do something, and it is our job to fight for a fair resolution that will allow our industry to remain economically viable."

Maine lobstermen landed nearly 120 million pounds of lobster last year, with a value of more than $484 million. Those millions of dollars form the foundation of the economy in small towns throughout Maine's coastal region.

Downeast Lobstermen’s Association President Sheila Dassatt helped organize the event and said it is important for lobstermen and organizations to work together.

“We’ve got to stand together,” she said. “Otherwise we don’t stand a chance.”

To learn more about the MLA and its stance on right whale regulations, visit If you would like to donate to the MLA Legal Defense Fund, visit