Procotor Academy’s (Andover, NH) Mountain Classroom program (10 students, 2 faculty) came out to Hurricane Island May 16-22, 2013 to finish up their cross-country trip investigating fisheries and food systems from California to Maine. Students spent the first part of their stay on Hurricane completing their independent culminating projects, projects that covered a range of topics including herbalism, codfish, and shifts in the symbolism of coyotes across Native American tribes.
After listening to some fantastic project presentations, we transitioned into exploring the world of the Maine lobster fishery, and on May 20th we dedicated the day to talking about lobster biology, how the fishery is managed, and the events that set the stage for Maine’s current lucrative lobster monoculture. We then used this knowledge to frame a conversation about recent shifts the lobster industry has seen: plummeting lobster prices, concerns with increasing water temperature affecting lobster survival, shedding patterns, and settlement in the Gulf of Maine, and concerns about the long-term sustainability of lobstering as the primary occupation in coastal communities.
After a break for lunch, we transitioned to looking at some of Hurricane Island’s research and demonstration traps, discussing how they work, and different construction restrictions lobstermen have to follow so they avoid ghost fishing if their traps are lost. Proctor students helped us paint our new lobster buoys (see image below) for our additional traps which will be used this summer.
Part of our afternoon was also spent hiking around Hurricane collecting trash that has washed up in the intertidal. We collected 5 contractor bags of mostly buoys, rope, empty Clorox bottles, and soda bottles. Given the number of traps in the water, it was not surprising that a high percentage of the marine debris we found were associated with the lobster industry.
The next morning, we traveled to Vinalhaven and spent the morning talking with different community members about their experiences in the lobster industry and learned a little bit about the culture and flavor of a piece of Maine’s working waterfront.
We then regrouped for lunch and met with Doug Littlefield from the Vinalhaven Co-op, one of the oldest Maine lobster buying Co-ops (Est. 1974). Doug explained more about the cost of doing business as a lobstermen, and helped us wrap our heads around the thousands of pounds of bait distributed from this facility and thousands of pounds of lobster coming into Carvers Harbor. We also met with Tristian Jackson who is part of a group working to form a new IAM lobstering union, Emily Lane, who spoke about challenges and strategies in marketing Maine lobster, and finished off the day with a trip out on lobsterman Jason Day’s (F/V Alexander Gabriel) to watch him haul a few lobster traps. That evening we warmed up from a chilly and wet day with a Maine lobster dinner.