Of Lobster and Men is an immersive series of photographs featuring the Maine Lobster Industry. This series is presented in a video slideshow accompanied by a seascape soundtrack reflecting the acoustic environment of various Maine harbors and working lobstermen. This industry brings in close to half a billion dollars to the Maine economy, but is presently faced with current issues that could destroy both the industry and the lobstermen’s livelihoods. Global warming and proposed right whale regulations force the lobstermen to fight for their livelihoods while also dealing with danger inherent in working on the sea.
A Deeper Look
The state of Maine regulations of the Lobster Industry are stricter than any other state. These regulations have helped the Lobster Industry survive while most other New England states’ lobster industries have significantly declined. Some benefits of Maine’s strict regulations include a sustainable lobster population, safety protections for lobstermen, and protections for the environment. However, in recent years proposed EPA regulations to protect the endangered right whales have sparked controversy among the fishermen resulting in a lawsuit against the state. Newly proposed federal gear restrictions would require boats to use new breakaway lines as well as other expensive gear modifications. These restrictions would require the use of purple lines so if a whale is entangled, it could be identified as a line from a Maine boat. The use of purple lines will help determine whether the Maine Lobster Industry or Canada’s crab industry is responsible for most right whale entanglements. Within this half a billion dollar industry, lobstermen are fighting to save their careers while also seeking a middle ground to protect right whales, prevent entanglements, and deaths of the whales.
With recent Chinese tariffs, global warming, and COVID-19 closing restaurants, the Maine Lobster Industry has been met with enormous challenges. These challenges leave Maine fishermen uncertain about the future of their livelihoods. Lobster prices have dropped significantly in recent days due to the new coronavirus pandemic. To make up for losses as a result of restaurants presently not buying lobster, the lobstermen chose a different route and sell directly to customers. However, the chair of York Lobstermen’s Association, Jeff White states that “off-the-boat sales are not sustainable long term”. The lobstermen must continue to make ends meet while wondering how they will be able to sell lobster if the coronavirus continues later into the year. The lobstermen are also facing the reality that as the ocean waters increase in temperature as a result of global warming, the lobsters will move further up the coast of Maine and into colder Canadian waters.
A Special Thanks
I would like to thank my Mom and Dad for providing help and support and my committee, Kane Stewart and Daniel Warner who guided me while I made my Div III project. I would also like to give a special thanks Kent, Jeff and Mark Bradstreet, the featured lobstermen who took me aboard their lobster boat Drake’s Fortune, Shannon Schmelzer for making the boat trip possible and both Shannon and Ross Griffin for sharing their experience in the Lobster Industry. I would finally like to thank my friends, family, brother Matthew for temporally storing my lobster traps, and my professors for their advice, feedback, support and encouragement in making my Div III possible. This project was also made possible by the Knights of Columbus of Newcastle, Maine.