Luke’s Lobster gears up for an expanded third year of its Lift All Boats program

Lift All Boats student
Lift All Boats student | Photo courtesy of Luke's Lobster
4 Min

Saco, Maine, U.S.A.-based restaurant chain Luke’s Lobster has expanded its Lift All Boats program, Luke’s Lobster Chief Innovation Officer Ben Conniff told SeafoodSource at 2024 Seafood Expo North America, which took place 10 to 12 March in Boston, Massachusetts U.S.A. 

The program was first launched in the summer of 2022 and was designed to encourage Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) youth involvement in Maine’s lobster industry.

Specifically, it gives high school students in the Portland, Maine, area a chance to see how the industry works by participating in fishing trips other industry-related activities. Students in the program spend time on the water with local fishermen in Maine's Casco Bay, working closely with Luke’s Lobster employees to get hands-on experience and network with industry experts.

“This will be our first year operating more like a full-time job, so we're excited about that. We're also going to create a more advanced section this year for people who have returned once or twice. We’ll take them a little further offshore fishing for a little longer using more traps so they get a little bit closer to what the professional experience is like,” Conniff told SeafoodSource.

Conniff said that this summer, the program will aim to have more diverse guest speakers from across the industry interact with the students.

“I'm trying to have one [guest speaker] every day. Last year, we had Moody Harney of Real Mother Shuckers, an oyster company in New York City. He came up and spoke about being a Black entrepreneur. We also had our CFO [Steven Song] come and give a personal finance course during one of the lunches,” Conniff said.

Participating students receive tracking gear, a daily stipend, and lunch at the Luke’s Lobster restaurant in Portland.

When the program first launched in 2022, it started with only four students. In the summer of 2023, Conniff said they increased the program to 18 slots and have further expanded to 25 for the summer of 2024. The program also welcomes returning students to be ambassadors for new members. 

The expansion is going to be awesome. Kids are having a great time, and they're the best ambassadors. People are signed up for this year because the others went back and talked about how fun it was,” Conniff said. 

The Lift All Boats program won Acme Smoked Fish Foundation’s Seafood Industry Climate Award (SICA) in 2023, garnering USD 40,000 (EUR 36,750), to enable it to expand the program.

Conniff said the award funded instructors who taught the students about piloting boats, baiting, setting traps, and selling lobster under sustainable guidelines. 

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