Hattie Train cuts kelp from a thousand-foot grow line aboard her father's fishing boat on Bay on Monday, May 29, 2023. Train, 26, is combining her life-long working experience on the water with her science education in opening a new consulting operation which seeks to bridge the often contentious gap between Maine's fishermen and scientists. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

CASCO BAY, Maine — Hattie Train uttered her first word while sitting atop the bar at one of Portland’s funky, wharfside watering holes, where someone had temporarily plunked her diapered bottom down, more than two decades ago.

Looking up at a larger-than-life size, red, taxidermied crustacean mounted on the wall,  Hattie pointed a chubby finger and uttered a toddler’s approximation of “lobster.”

“It was something like ‘lober,'” Train, now 26, said. “To say I’ve spent my whole life on Casco Bay wouldn’t be an exaggeration.”

She’s not kidding.

The daughter of an activist fisherman and science-focused teacher, Train grew up a few miles off Portland on Long Island. She hauled her first lobster traps at eight and was running her own boat by age 12.

Pierce Conroy (left) and Hattie Train haul kelp aboard a working boat on Casco Bay on Monday, May 29, 2023. Train, 26, has worked her whole life on the water, first fishing with her father as a child. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

At college, she earned a marine science degree with minors in aquaculture and fisheries. Since graduating, Train has helped collect scientific data for organizations including the Maine Lobster Institute. She’s also spent time laboring aboard Casco Bay Lines ferries, chugging between offshore islands, in all kinds of weather.

Train even lives on a boat tied up at a Portland marina.

Now, she’s setting out on her biggest marine-related challenge yet: bringing Maine fisherman and scientists together.

Calling on her background in both fishing and science, Train is opening Wharfside Associates, a consulting firm aimed at bridging the often contentious communications gap between those who make their living harvesting the ocean’s bounty and those who’ve dedicated their lives to studying it.

From fish farming to right whales to offshore windmills to byzantine federal fishing regulations, Train said she wants to bring the two sides closer to hearing and understanding each other, even when they don’t agree.

As a consultant, Train expects to work on the communications side of science, regulatory, policymaking and fishermen’s advocacy groups, speaking to one side on behalf of another while making both sides understood.

Steve Train (left) and daughter Hattie Train work together harvesting kelp on Casco Bay on Monday, May 29, 2023. Steve Train said that his daughter first got interested in ocean science and policy, as well as fishing, at a young age. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Train said she understands standing between sides sounds like the most hazardous position of them all but that’s where she wants to be.

But she’s up for the challenge, and, after all, someone’s got to do it, as the future of Maine fishing, aquaculture and energy are at stake.

“You can be in the same room with fishermen and scientists, and they can all be talking about the same exact topic, and none of them might be understanding what the other ones are saying,” Train said. “I see myself as being someone with a unique background, and having very unique connections across that whole span, where I can help with the communication between those different aspects.”

She grew up not only fishing alongside her father, Steve Train, but also attending policy meetings with him, reading reports — and then helping her father and neighboring fishermen understand them — since at least high school.

Steve Train has fished for lobster, shrimp, scallops and sea urchins during his four decades on the water. Most recently, he has started farming kelp. He served as the Maine governor’s appointee to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and was on the board of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association for 16 years. He was also on several other marine resource boards. He’s on a first-name basis with Maine’s congressional delegation.

Along with her father’s deep involvement in Maine fishing, Hattie Train’s mother, Marci Train, is an award-winning teacher based in Long Island’s tiny, two-room school, where she’s taught for decades. Marci Train held the state’s first educational kelp-growing lease.

Hattie Train fills a giant bag with harvested kelp aboard her father’s fishing boat on Casco Bay on Monday, May 29, 2023. Train has been working with her father on the bay since she was a child. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

In March, she was awarded the American Geosciences Institute’s prestigious National Award for Teaching Excellence in Earth Science at the Elementary Level at a gala ceremony in Atlanta.

“[Hattie] speaks our fishing language and knows science, too,” Steve Train said after a day of harvesting farmed kelp with his daugher on Casco Bay. “The politics skills, she’ll learn those, eventually.”

One of the biggest translation pitfalls Hattie Train said she sees separating people all the time is over the word “conservation.”

She said fishermen usually hear that word and think scientists want to shut them down or choke off their livelihoods. A better word, she said, is “sustainability.” It’s a term both sides can see as taking fish, and fishing, into the long-term future.

But, Hattie Train knows that’s an easy example and the job she’s stepping into will be much more difficult. To get started, she’s already consulting with a couple of fishing-related Maine organizations, including the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation, helping them get the word out and attract fishermen to their programs centered around cleaning up potential ghost gear and discarded fishing lines.

At left: Hattie Train cuts kelp from a thousand-foot grow line aboard her father’s fishing boat on May 29, 2023; At left: Train guides a heavy bag filled with harvested kelp as workmen hoist it off her father’s boat at Holyoke Wharf in Portland on Monday. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Looking forward, Hattie Train is also interested in working with fishermen and scientists on alternative fuel, or hybrid, fishing boats.

He may be a little biased, but Steve Train thinks that if anyone can have a successful career, sandwiched between fishermen and scientists, it’s his daughter.

“The worst thing you can do is tell Hattie that she can’t do something — because then, it will happen,” he said. “Between her experience and her education, there’s nobody better suited.”

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.