Fishing the Gulf of Maine: Tradition at a Crossroads
When most of us go down to the coast, whether to walk or swim or fish or sail, we take for granted what we see before us. We see the lobster boats and the colorful buoys marking the strings of traps, the bobbing green and red cans marking safe passage, the gulls and other seabirds.
In the larger working harbors like Portland and Stonington and Port Clyde, there might be draggers tied up, unloading fish they've caught far out in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank. What we don't realize is that this seemingly unchanging marine world is in fact always changing in ways both large and small.
What we think of as "the coast of Maine" - those 3,000 vaunted miles of rocky shoreline punctuated by seaside villages and docks and lobster pounds and fishing fleets - was largely built on the backs of the fishermen and lobstermen who are there, however picturesque or authentic to the eye, for a single purpose: to harvest the sea in order to feed us.
Those who go down to the sea to fish in the coming years will face challenges and issues which would never have seemed likely to their parents. Some developments are wholly positive, like innovations in fishing gear that lead to less wasteful fishing and advances in lobster processing that add value to the resource. The idea that Maine seafood, particularly lobster and lobster products, should be branded has growing support - and a few early ventures are already off the ground.
In aquaculture, too, particularly penned salmon, but also oysters and mussels, advances in research and new opportunities are making this a viable alternative for the sons and daughters of today's fishermen to become the next generation of sea-farmers as well as providing growing employment in counties that need it most.
Some of these challenges are going to be difficult. With the loss of waterfront fishing infrastructure to residential construction and non-marine uses, fishermen face numerous troubles from where to moor their boat in a harbor given over to yachts to growing expenses for bait and fuel, to complex new rules governing how and where they fish.
Over all of these fisheries hangs the question of sustainability — in bait species such as herring, in cod and haddock and other groundfish stocks, even, over the long-term, of the in-shore lobster population itself.
Continue reading at The Ecologist.
Lobster image via Shutterstock.