Boat raffle to benefit Maine Lobster Institute

Posted March 14, 2010, at 9:13 p.m.

ISLESBORO, Maine — When lobsterman Josh Conover got a new boat to replace his all-wood 1977 vessel, he knew he wanted to do something interesting with the old boat.

In an effort to help the University of Maine’s Maine Lobster Institute, Conover is raffling his 38-foot boat for $150 per ticket, and some of the proceeds will benefit the nonprofit’s research on lobster conservation.

“I bought a new lobster boat and I’ve owned my other one for a couple years. I tried to think of an interesting way to get rid of it,” Conover said. “Someone will be able to get a 38-foot boat for $150.”

Conover bought the boat four years ago for $38,000 and put about $15,000 worth of work into it when he built a new engine box for the vessel.

It has been difficult for Conover to get involved with any sort of conservation work because he spends most of his time on his boat, Oddball. This is his way of helping.

“I was reading the research and all the good work that they do; I’ve been so busy fishing and trying to make a living that I haven’t been able to participate in a lot of things,” he said.

Conover said he is trying to keep up with fishing research and legal and scientific discussions around new federal fishing regulations coming down this year. In his mind, if the federal government is going to base their regulatory decisions on the work the Lobster Institute and other research organizations do, Conover wants the science to be the best it can be.

“They’re going to base all regulations they hand down to us on science, so I want the Maine Lobster Institute to do good research because I trust them.”

As of Sunday afternoon Conover had sold 25 tickets to people on Islesboro. He wasn’t sure how many the institute or Brooks Trap Mill in Thomaston had sold. At least 300 tickets have to sell by Sept. 17 for Conover to give up the boat, but the goal is 350 tickets at $150 each. Of the 350 tickets, 10 percent of the first 300 and 100 percent of the final 50 tickets will be donated to the institute.

Robert Bayer, the executive director of the Maine Lobster Institute, said the approximately $12,000 the boat might raise is coming at a good time.

“We’re always looking for funds,” Bayer said. “We’re a nonprofit at the University of Maine and this will help us deal with the daily issues of the lobster industry.”

Bayer and his team work to conserve lobsters and educate people about them. He said the institute has gotten lots of support from fishermen and other organizations, and that these gifts show the mutually beneficial relationship between educators and fishermen.

“The people in the fisheries bring their problems to us,” Bayer said. Problems he works with include alternative bait, increasing the value of lobster to get better prices and how to best ship lobsters.

Conover’s boat was constructed on Beals Island and is made of cedar planks over an oak frame. It comes with a John Deere 6.8 liter, six-cylinder, 225 horsepower turbocharged diesel engine and navigation and communication equipment. It does not, however, come with its name. Oddball already has been sanded off the side, as Conover chose to reuse the name on his new boat.

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