Kris Cringle

The changing coast of Maine?

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Thousands of miles of unforgiving granite shoreline aside, nothing has formed the coast of Maine more than fishing. The fish are gone, mostly due to overfishing. What remains is a lucrative catch: the Maine lobster.

 

Fishermen have broken the landing record each season for the last 5 years. Everybody agrees, there's plenty of lobsters in the Gulf of Maine, today. 

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Why the lobster glut? A few notions: Natural predators, like Cod, are gone. So many traps have become feeding stations. Farming vs fishing? 

FACT: The Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest warming bodies of water on the planet. Did the rapid rise in water temperature fuel the present boom? 

Besides the half billion industry, the glut has propelled fishermen to gear up. The coast of Maine has 3 million traps on the bottom today. Many young fishermen have invested (gone in debt) in bigger boats and gear to harvest the maximum trap limit(huge-600 traps or so). 

 

Bluebird, a small skiff pulling a few traps in Pulpit Harbor. 

bluebird-pulpit-harbor-setting-traps-2-j

 

One thing is for sure, fisheries science tells us the Gulf of Maine will warm too much to sustain a healthy lobster population. The lobsters will migrate North (as they have been from Southern NE) to cooler water temperatures. The question isn't if, it's when. 

 

 

Bluebird docking up at the local fisherman's floating support station. These - usually large, wholesale lobster operations, buy the lobsters from the fishermen and supply them with precious bait. They need so much bait, bait is an industrial biz. The crew of Bluebird doesn't need much, just a few bait bags and they're off again. 

bluebird-pulpit-harbor-bait-dock-jpg.153

 

2017 landings ended the record streak. The value was down $100 mil. Not the end of the world as today, fishing is a half a billion industry on our coast. 

 

But it was a significant dip in the recent trend. The fishing industry sounded no alarms,... yet. 

 

 

 

Bluebird heads out to set a few more traps. Sustainability is a new word in the Maine fishing industry. Boat prices ($ per pound of lobster) remain low (under $4/lb) despite record catches.The whole industry is invested in continued record landings. Bluebird, may be the future when lobsters are scarce, and their value finally reflects the resource. 

bluebird-pulpit-harbor-heading-out-jpg.1

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They will soon move north.  The traps down east have gotten ridiculous.  Pots in some places close enough together you can walk across them.  Almost all narrow passages have an abundance of pots.  In East Penobscot bay they seem to be unable to pick up theirs pots without a toggle that’s longer than my boat (46’).  I’ve heard a lot of whiney excuses from lobstermen that they can’t get their pots otherwise, but that’s BS, as the currents are strong all over the place from Portsmouth to Machias, and only some areas have stupidly long toggles.   Last summer I had to go diving 3 times to deal with fouled pots.  One of those times I was at the entrance to the Casco passage.  While I love the fact that th industry is good for my state, there needs to be some common sense when it comes to setting traps in heavily transited waterways.  

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When was the last season we've had Gulf of Main shrimp? 

I used to feel bad about cutting a pot, but no longer - especially if it's in a channel. I tend to get one a year, (my son usually)

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Agree on points above. A clear bottle in the middle of a tight channel does not constitute a good marker, especially when it's pulled underwater by a 2 knot current. There should at least be some requirement on size/color (that's what she said) or maybe even marker flags. I highly recommend the hook knife by Sailor Solutions for diving.  

Interesting that the majority of lobsters are now being exported to China who has recently placed tariffs on them in our idiot-inspired trade war. 

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3 hours ago, A guy in the Chesapeake said:

So Kris - given this realization, are their any innovative approaches to fisheries preservation/restoration that are being tried out locally?    

There are small glimmers of hope in the industry. A few groups of local fishermen are joining co-ops that practice more sustainable practices (for all species). If the product stays close to home through the sale, the fishermen can get more money.

 

But unfortunately the bulk of the industry is working for big businesses that control the industry and boat (fisherman's) price. 

 

I fear it's way too late to prevent a collapse. That's not a big deal for most of us but I'm thinking beyond me and the changes the coast will see in the not too distant future. It's a way of life for so many Mainers. 

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1 hour ago, Elegua said:

When was the last season we've had Gulf of Main shrimp? 

I used to feel bad about cutting a pot, but no longer - especially if it's in a channel. I tend to get one a year, (my son usually)

 

Kenny, (not his real name) delivered those lobsters above, last week. He charges us more than his boat price, but less than local retail. We both make out (he's a good guy to know). He takes cash only of course, and we give him a tip. 

 

He regaled our guests his Maine accent. Somebody asked him about fishing stocks and he spouted more bullshit than you could believe. "There's plenty of shrimp out there" They closed the fishery last season. It's been limited to a week or two only, due to limited stocks. "There's plenty of Haddock out in the bay",...More bullshit. There is so little left of groundfish stocks that very little can be bought locally. 

 

And Kenny is a total climate science denier so he's not concerned about the lack of breeding stock in the Gulf,  now being noticed by scientists. Kenny a Science denier. :)

 

Unfortunately, I think he represents the majority of lobstermen. 

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1 hour ago, Kris Cringle said:

There are small glimmers of hope in the industry. A few groups of local fishermen are joining co-ops that practice more sustainable practices (for all species). If the product stays close to home through the sale, the fishermen can get more money.

 

But unfortunately the bulk of the industry is working for big businesses that control the industry and boat (fisherman's) price. 

 

I fear it's way too late to prevent a collapse. That's not a big deal for most of us but I'm thinking beyond me and the changes the coast will see in the not too distant future. It's a way of life for so many Mainers. 

 I am the 1st generation of my family that didn't head to the Bay to go crabbing, pound-net fishing or oystering.  There are many positive changes happening in the Chesapeake, but, it will never be what it was in my parents and grandparents time.   Aquaculture is rapidly replacing dredging/tonging as the most efficient and sustainable means of harvesting oysters.   The crab catch is reported to be better this year than in previous years, but, it too is cyclic.  The health of the bay has improved greatly, and is still improving - but, that won't do anything if the water gets too warm.    

I sincerely hope that the people who've studied these problems holistically can come up with something that will prevent complete fisheries depletion. 

 

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1 minute ago, A guy in the Chesapeake said:

 I am the 1st generation of my family that didn't head to the Bay to go crabbing, pound-net fishing or oystering.  There are many positive changes happening in the Chesapeake, but, it will never be what it was in my parents and grandparents time.   Aquaculture is rapidly replacing dredging/tonging as the most efficient and sustainable means of harvesting oysters.   The crab catch is reported to be better this year than in previous years, but, it too is cyclic.  The health of the bay has improved greatly, and is still improving - but, that won't do anything if the water gets too warm.    

I sincerely hope that the people who've studied these problems holistically can come up with something that will prevent complete fisheries depletion. 

 

Not to get all PA here but the people who've studied these problems holistically have come up with lots of solutions. The problem is, they require buy-in from legislatures and industry, not science denial. 

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2 hours ago, Kris Cringle said:

 

Kenny, (not his real name) delivered those lobsters above, last week. He charges us more than his boat price, but less than local retail. We both make out (he's a good guy to know). He takes cash only of course, and we give him a tip. 

 

He regaled our guests his Maine accent. Somebody asked him about fishing stocks and he spouted more bullshit than you could believe. "There's plenty of shrimp out there" They closed the fishery last season. It's been limited to a week or two only, due to limited stocks. "There's plenty of Haddock out in the bay",...More bullshit. There is so little left of groundfish stocks that very little can be bought locally. 

 

And Kenny is a total climate science denier so he's not concerned about the lack of breeding stock in the Gulf,  now being noticed by scientists. Kenny a Science denier. :)

 

Unfortunately, I think he represents the majority of lobstermen. 

I'd say judging by the size of the pickup trucks and the full-on, "Most Dangerous Catch", style boats all bought on easy credit and low fuel prices, it's going to get pretty ugly pretty soon. 

So what happens then? Are we doomed to become a retirement home and Disneyland for people from away? Booth Bay has sadly sold its soul to Coloumbe but I'm not sure what the alternative would be.  I live away, so I can't begrudge people development. But lots of very low cost memberships to the country club were given away.

But remember to click your mike 5 times as you go past Cuckholds Light, just for fun. 

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1 hour ago, Elegua said:

I'd say judging by the size of the pickup trucks and the full-on, "Most Dangerous Catch", style boats all bought on easy credit and low fuel prices, it's going to get pretty ugly pretty soon. 

So what happens then? Are we doomed to become a retirement home and Disneyland for people from away? Booth Bay has sadly sold its soul to Coloumbe but I'm not sure what the alternative would be.  I live away, so I can't begrudge people development. But lots of very low cost memberships to the country club were given away.

But remember to click your mike 5 times as you go past Cuckholds Light, just for fun. 

We sailed out of Booth Bay for a couple years. I didn't know about Coloumbe. That's embarrassing! 

 

I've seen a lot of change in my area in just 20 years. Fewer families, more homes are now second homes and retirees are a huge part of the population in Rockport. Not long before we moved here, many fishing families lived right in the village/harbor neighborhood. The fishermen are still here in the harbor, in fact there's been an increase in fishing activity on the landing, but they commute from outside. Many sold their village homes for prices they couldn't refuse. Some were torn down for new homes. 

 

What will happen? Beats me,... We're (Maine) too remote to ever draw biz and industry that could provide a decent living for most. Housing costs have doubled, maybe twice since I've moved here. We will probably be the last family to raise kids in this house or neighborhood. I've seen more year round homes go to seasonal owners. Many year rounders here are retirees. I was lucky, my design/building skills supplied all the work I needed (and still do). Many people in more normal occupations end up going broke here. 

 

Maine is tricky! It's a painfully beautiful place to live and raise kids. It's future is not certain. 

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Well, stranger things have happened.  We went from farming to tourism and some of the tourists decided to bring their businesses, so now we have spooky military drone factories and data centers. Basically, they’re making Skynet here, but heck, there’s a payroll...

If you want a big bag of depression, go over to globalfishingwatch.org  It seems kind of silly and quixotic, but just the guys who are actually reporting their catch and keeping the AIS turned on are killing the oceans.  And that’s probably, like, a tenth of them.  But there’s pretty graphics.  

 

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15 hours ago, Kris Cringle said:

Unfortunately, I think he represents the majority of lobstermen fishermen. 

FIFY

FKT - who once worked in fisheries science straight out of university, and departed a much more cynical man.....

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Fishers are the last group of humans using the old modus vivendi of hunter-gatherer. Enjoy wild fish while you can as all seafood will come from a pen or a tank in the near future. Draggers with sophisticated electronics have all but scoured the oceanic depths 'clean'. Big businesses are stripping the fishing industry for quick profit have no inclination to return to more sustainable practices such as hook and line fishing. And poor, dumb Mainers and Maritimers like "Kenny" will be lucky if they can find work as historical re-enactors in touristic fishing village theme parks.

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We were in Tenants Harbor last week having a B-day dinner for a nephew. He fishes so we picked up a mackerel jig for him and he headed down the docks at Luke's Lobster. We saw the fin activity on the water. A kid can't miss with mackeral in our harbors now. 

He came back empty handed. At first I re-figured the above, maybe a kid raised in Brooklyn CAN miss with mackerel. Then I overheard the manager, also the head of the fishing co-op there say, "Those are pogees". She went on,"They fished the mackerel out". 

Cheeziss. I couldn't believe that knowing the stocks that come into the harbor this time of year. They're about the only fish left for recreational fishing by the masses. I hope it isn't true. I haven't looked in the buckets down in our harbor. People of all makes and ways of life pull mackerel out of our harbor through July and August. They fish to eat them. 

 

I just stumbled on this: https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/26/atlantic-mackerel-fishery-will-be-restricted-for-rest-of-year/

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20 hours ago, Kris Cringle said:

It's a way of life for so many Mainers. 

I'm spending next week on Eagle Lake in the Acadian part of Maine. My parents met on a potato field there. My dad realized the family farm was a lousy business so went to college to learn a trade and moved to the Boston area to find work.

I thought of buying lake property up there to have a place near family, and realistically, as a gift to them as they'd use it often. Even among my cousins there was a bit of "Masshole threatening our way of life" in their response to the idea. The BOS to PQI flight now goes through New Jersey, making the idea impractical. It's too fucking far away, and there are a lot of beautiful, unspoiled rural areas closer to me. These areas are not in short supply. Areas where people can find work are.

Mainers and many in rural areas should get over themselves in thinking their "way of life" is an entitlement. To me Downeasters can have it, as there are way too many fucking lobster pots to attract this Masshole to the sailing there. WASPS stole Maine from the natives. What about their "way of life?"

I'd be thankful for the retirees and the increasing housing prices. That money can easily go elsewhere.

Please know this is just a rant. No offense intended.

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Some thoughts.

Last time I looked, bait sales measured by weight were about half the weight of lobster per year. Videos show lobsters going in and out of traps. You answer the farming question.

Maine hosts an "International Lobster Conference" or used to. The first year a lobsterman from Australia spoke, bewildered at the Maine resistance to ITQs (Individual transferrable Quotas). Australia had "imposed" this system on their fishery, which was being overfished. Once the fishermen had control , with each allowed a set percentage of the total harvest, they imposed a restriction on themselves and the price promptly rose enough to compensate. His license had become worth $2,000,000.  This suggests that Maine fishermen could impose restrictions on the amount of lobster they land without a financial penalty. ITQs have been resisted by almost every fishery they have been imposed on, but generally loved afterwards by those same fisheries. Government sanctioned cartels are interesting political constructions:-). Lobster is a luxury product, notwithstanding the endless comments of prisoners back in the day bitching about being served it too often.

The fishery has always been controlled by the lobstermen, a fact finally acknowledged by the state when a lobsterman from the mainland demanded protection in order to fish off Monhegan Island, which had a self imposed six month season. The state finally codified the system the fishermen had used for eons to set fishing territory and control entry. Mohegan's landing during its shorter season (and Canadian landings during their much shorter season) suggest that there could be great reductions in fishing effort and cost without a reduction in lobster landed.

The last time I looked, the overwhelming majority of lobsters landed were very close to the minimum measurement and the estimate was that they had ridden up in a trap multiple times and been thrown back. Lobster are unique in that they survive this measurement- almost every other fishery kills the product it isn't allowed to land, thus defeating the purpose of the restriction.

I love Maine Lobsterboats, from the smaller inshore boats I remember and that you can still see to the offshore behemoths thundering home mid afternoon to a downeast harbor for highliners. Built for a purpose that requires compromise and quality, I would rank them among the best fishing boats ever made, and they are a major pleasure of cruising this coast. I gladly put up with the traps and treat them with respect. I have had to cut them.

I also love the men and women of the fishery, and cherish my time a spent as Treasurer of a local lobstermen's association, prior to state sanction. I was allowed the job as I was at that time neither a summer or winter person, and had not, nor ever in the future was expected to lobster myself; and thus could be trusted with their pooled money, which they didn't really trust with each other:-) I learned an enormous amount about the unwritten laws of the fishery, which were extensive and particular, and gained enormous respect for the lobstermen themselves.

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On 7/12/2018 at 12:27 PM, Kris Cringle said:

Unfortunately, I think he represents the majority of lobstermen. 

I am more familiar with the Nova Scotia lobster fishery, which on the South Shore is winter only. Nova Scotia went to a limited license fishery a couple decades back. That led to a boatbuilding boom because the small boats became uneconomical. But that is pretty well complete now. There are exceptions though.  Like Maine though, the groundfish are severely depleted.  But basically the Tragedy of the Commons is what is happening.

When I wen to school over 30 years ago, our mentors designed draggers (both the olde eastern rigs as well as the stern trawlers) shrimpers, and "tuna clippers."  That work is __all gone___. New England designers (John Gilbert, Walter McInnis, Cyrus Hamlin among others) produced wonderful designs for these fisheries. And builders around the Cape and Downeast used to build to them in steel, wood, and fiberglass. (Remember Bruno & Stillman?).   All gone now. There are little tiny fleets of draggers and longliners scattered about now. That's it. There just aren't the fish to support them any longer.

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2 hours ago, Tucky said:

SNIP

The last time I looked, the overwhelming majority of lobsters landed were very close to the minimum measurement and the estimate was that they had ridden up in a trap multiple times and been thrown back. Lobster are unique in that they survive this measurement- almost every other fishery kills the product it isn't allowed to land, thus defeating the purpose of the restriction.

I

SNIP
 


In the fin fishery that is largely because of purposely gaffing and mishandling the bycatch. Staggeringly stupid. But legal.

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7 hours ago, Jim in Halifax said:

Fishers are the last group of humans using the old modus vivendi of hunter-gatherer. Enjoy wild fish while you can as all seafood will come from a pen or a tank in the near future. Draggers with sophisticated electronics have all but scoured the oceanic depths 'clean'. Big businesses are stripping the fishing industry for quick profit have no inclination to return to more sustainable practices such as hook and line fishing. And poor, dumb Mainers and Maritimers like "Kenny" will be lucky if they can find work as historical re-enactors in touristic fishing village theme parks.

Since the 70s I watched attempts at Pubnico, Argyle and other places along the South Shore to raise trout and salmon in pens. They kept failing (fortunately). The only upside was the mackerel we caught from under them--especially the last experiment off Abbot's Harbor.

But now they have actual successful ones in the Bay of Fundy up at Digby. Goddamn this will be the end of Salmon. Ireland even had to go C&R this year. And they are careful. But Scotland and Norway are totally wrecking their wild stocks. The pens are in the very waters the wild fish traverse. They catch diseases. And the escapees risk ruining the genetics. Salmon genetics are critical to survival. The reason the Atlantic salmon is unrestorable is loss of the gene imprints for each particular historic run.

My father fished trout and salmon on the Tusket before the war. All gone. Now the fucking chain pickerel is slowly but surely advancing up the Tusket, taking all the brook char with them. What ignoramus put pickerel into Nova Scotia! Damn it all.

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Another crashing coastal fishery. Clearly, we will not learn.

 

Yet - to pick a nit with the journalist

Boat prices ($ per pound of lobster) remain low (under $4/lb) despite record catches.

Well, duh, lobster prices are low BECAUSE OF record catches.

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Less than 10 years ago, I talked to this Scottish lobsterman in St Andrews. I spent a lot of time in the harbor shooting the boats and people. Smaller boats, smaller traps, smaller number of traps,... You get it. They are regulated as I recall but what I remember the most was that his boat price for lobster was running 3 to 4 times that of the Maine price, at the time. 

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I know this guy in our harbor, a little. He's like many, on a shoe string budget. Nice guy. His wife drives into the harbor to pick him up (he probably lost his license for life, DUI). He can afford a Maine vanity plate on his PU truck. It says,.   LaGirl.

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But many Maine lobstermen are sharp and make some big bucks. This guy was in Stonington selling his catch.Fit, picked up, he works hard. Does he understand the situation? I dunno. 

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Last time we were on the Cape, we moored inside in Menemsha. I watched these lobstermen come in. Matching, graphic designed T shirts. Boat was sparkling, real exhaust not the dry stack of Maine boats. They were unloading their catch right to one of the fishmongers at Menemsha. Smart. No middle man. They can both make some money on lobster.

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Meanwhile in Maine, a 1/2 billion dollar industry, and the fisherman usually gets less than 4 bucks a pound. Not too smart. They don't know how to organize, or perhaps they're too big and can't, I dunno. It's a wonder they don't die in their dinghys. 

38363256492_32f5a27d62_b.jpg

 

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15 minutes ago, Raz'r said:

Another crashing coastal fishery. Clearly, we will not learn.

 

Yet - to pick a nit with the journalist

Boat prices ($ per pound of lobster) remain low (under $4/lb) despite record catches.

Well, duh, lobster prices are low BECAUSE OF record catches.

Right! The other confusing thing about Maine lobster $$: The demand goes up seasonally, tourist season fills seaside restaurants. Tourist season coincides with the timing of when most lobsters shed their old undersized shell and grow new shells. That event is largely caused by water temperature.

 

Shedding season is when the lobsters are the hungriest and inshore where they're easy to trap. "New Shells" sell for less $ because although the new shell is large, the lobster inside is still small. Much of the weight is in water that fills the oversized shell. Tourists love them thinking they're a deal. They get soaking wet eating them.

 

Hard shells mean the lobster inside is tightly packed, little water. There is about 25% more lobster meat in a 1 1/4 lb hardshell vs a 1 1/4lb New Shell. 

 

Just a few seasons ago, the water warmed up very fast - and early. That caused the lobsters to move quickly inshore, shed their shells and flood the market, early.

 

But: There was low demand before summer season. Price plummeted. 

 

Talk about a complicated fishery. 

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There are almost no lobster pots once in the Eggemoggin Reach.

I'm a Texan who keeps a boat in Maine, because while southern NE is OK, Maine has a couple of hundred harbors as pretty as Hadley's, but with nobody there. We've never realistically considered property, although friends from our town used to own one of the largest summer homes there. Those winter service jobs taking care of boats in indoor storage are good jobs in Maine. The yard hands have always been super nice to the boat owners, or at least they're nice to me.

The collapse of the cod fishery is old news, and part of the tragedy of the commons combined with the long tradition of the rule of capture. The Texas oil industry was nearly destroyed by the rule of capture, and when the Railroad Commission was brought in to regulate, oil guys hired armed guards, and the RRC brought in the Texas National Guard.

Not too many years ago in Frenchboro we could get steamed lobster delivered to the boat with butter for $3/lb. Places in RI would sell twins with potato and salad for $10. We frequently buy lobsters right off the boat.

When our son was young we would frequently attend church services on the islands we visited, many were followed by potlucks. Beth would often make a chicken enchilada casserole New Mexico style with green chile. It was usually the first thing gone.

I get close to $70/bbl for oil these days. Less than 20 years ago I got under $7/bbl. Go figure.

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Kris,

 

Will you be at the ERR or any of the feeder races?

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26 minutes ago, Cruisin Loser said:

The collapse of the cod fishery is old news

to true, welle documentated by Mark Kurlansky.    

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2 hours ago, Snaggletooth said:

to true, welle documentated by Mark Kurlansky.    

All of his books are great.

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13 hours ago, Cruisin Loser said:

Kris,

 

Will you be at the ERR or any of the feeder races?

I'm sailing down to Mystic Seaport for the Alden event that goes on the weekend before. I doubt I'll be back in time. Good luck in the races. Are you doing all of them? 

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11 hours ago, kdh said:

All of his books are great.

They are. The Cod story is well known as it was the fish that built a country. What gets lost is all the other groundfish that went by the same nets. I can't catch a Haddock in Penobscot Bay for dinner which was unheard of before they were fished out. Truth is, we don't even drop a line off the boat above Cape Cod except for Mackerel fishing with kids.

 

Good thing our kids are grown up because it sounds like that's gone too. It's a great joy to watch kids catch fish. 

 

The book on this subject that has local attention (mine, which started this thread) today, is this: The Last Lobster

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https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250080851

 

I've been in touch with the author. He will do a reading for us at a new and used bookstore in town next time he's in Maine. A timely local subject. 

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We fish for bluefish off my sailboat. They're fun to catch and a great pre-dinner treat if eaten the same day as caught.

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4 hours ago, Kris Cringle said:

I'm sailing down to Mystic Seaport for the Alden event that goes on the weekend before. I doubt I'll be back in time. Good luck in the races. Are you doing all of them? 

Probably. I've got a couple of crew I picked up here. We'll probably have 3 for the feeder races, 4 for ERR. I'd love to have a photographer on board. As Spirit of Tradition, we start last and sail through most of the fleet. 

I don't have anything to gauge against yet, but my sense is the boat is much quicker upwind with the new sails. We won't keep up with Dreadnaught, Blackfish or Isobel, but we'll be OK with boat speed. 

If I'd had time, I'd have tried to do the Alden meetup as well. 

I'm trying work a trip to Newfoundland on a friends boat while also getting mine to Newport for the classic regatta there August 25-26, plus find crew for that event.

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On 7/12/2018 at 8:12 AM, A guy in the Chesapeake said:

So Kris - given this realization, are their any innovative approaches to fisheries preservation/restoration that are being tried out locally?    

I am joining this thread late, but there is a lot here that is near and dear to my Maine located heart...   I represent lots of lobster fisherman, and I am on the board of an oceanographic laboratory. 

The scary issue for the lobster industry isn't really overfishing.  While that could be a problem, the failure of lobsters to reproduce successfully is the death knell. Lobsters take 7 - 8 years to grow to legal size.  They start out with a nymph-like form, then develop shells and molt into the shape we recognize.  They do that in their first season, and would fit on a dime.  We are not seeing those tiny lobsters precipitate out of the water column anymore.  As a result, there is no supply of young lobsters coming up behind the current mature examples.  We think that the shells don't calcify properly in the warmer water we're seeing.  The Gulf of Maine is the fastest warming body of salt water on earth (second fastest in some studies).  The last two winters have seen wintertime water temperatures 14 degrees or more above historical averages.  

 

On 7/12/2018 at 12:19 PM, Kris Cringle said:

There are small glimmers of hope in the industry. A few groups of local fishermen are joining co-ops that practice more sustainable practices (for all species). If the product stays close to home through the sale, the fishermen can get more money.

 

But unfortunately the bulk of the industry is working for big businesses that control the industry and boat (fisherman's) price. 

 

I fear it's way too late to prevent a collapse. That's not a big deal for most of us but I'm thinking beyond me and the changes the coast will see in the not too distant future. It's a way of life for so many Mainers. 

I share the disdain for the industrial lobster operations, and I agree that they will result in fishing out what's there sooner than later.  As far as too late to prevent collapse, however, if we are to rely on natural processes, the game is already over since we aren't getting any more juveniles.  We probably need to work on seeding lobsters by raising them through the fry stage to at least the beginning of the shelled stage. 

 

On 7/12/2018 at 3:08 PM, Elegua said:

I'd say judging by the size of the pickup trucks and the full-on, "Most Dangerous Catch", style boats all bought on easy credit and low fuel prices, it's going to get pretty ugly pretty soon. 

So what happens then? Are we doomed to become a retirement home and Disneyland for people from away? Booth Bay has sadly sold its soul to Coloumbe but I'm not sure what the alternative would be.  I live away, so I can't begrudge people development. But lots of very low cost memberships to the country club were given away.

But remember to click your mike 5 times as you go past Cuckholds Light, just for fun. 

Its already ugly.  I no longer represent debtors in bankruptcy, but I still do divorces.  The debt these guys are carrying is staggering.  I see guys in their 20's and early 30's with hundreds of thousands of dollars in boat and gear loans.  (The gear loans are the real killers - 800 traps, plus spares, plus line, etc.  All of which can be lost in storms etc.)  We are going to wind up with a whole lot of hunry, scared, angry dudes around here. Fuel costs are rising again.  Its going to be 2008 all over again. 

 

On 7/12/2018 at 4:55 PM, Kris Cringle said:

What will happen? Beats me,... We're (Maine) too remote to ever draw biz and industry that could provide a decent living for most. Housing costs have doubled, maybe twice since I've moved here. We will probably be the last family to raise kids in this house or neighborhood. I've seen more year round homes go to seasonal owners. Many year rounders here are retirees. I was lucky, my design/building skills supplied all the work I needed (and still do). Many people in more normal occupations end up going broke here. 

The political climate also really kills business.  Both Airbus and Kestrel proposed to put significant facilities at the Brunswick Naval Air Station when it closed.  The summer people in Harpswell shot them down because they didn't want to overflights, and our conservative Governor wouldn't deal on the tax front.  There have been serious efforts to build LNG terminals in Harpswell, Eastport, and elsewhere.  All shot down by the nimbys, supported by the lobster guys afraid their traps would be run over.  South Portland has levied a moratorium on the use of its pipeline and oil facilities.  Oil used to be imported because Portland was the northernmost coldwater port that could be relied on not to freeze over.  That oil went to Montreal.  Now there are Canadian ports that can accept that oil.  We could export oil off those same docks now.  There is supply and a market, but folks won't let it happen.  I started out a liberal greenie, but have concluded that its hard to eat smug.

The housing cost issue cuts both ways, or perhaps one if you start on the wrong place.  Our house in Bath is worth almost four times what we paid in 2005.  Some of that is attributable to work we've done, but most of that is market movement. It will serve us when we sell it and move to the farm, but there are not a lot of Maine families moving in.  We marvel at the increase of New York and New Jersey license plates. (I'm a transplant from New Jersey, for the record.)  We took to counting Porsches this summer.  We used to remark on them because it was rare to see one in town; now we see several an hour drive past.

 

On 7/13/2018 at 8:39 AM, kdh said:

Mainers and many in rural areas should get over themselves in thinking their "way of life" is an entitlement. To me Downeasters can have it, as there are way too many fucking lobster pots to attract this Masshole to the sailing there. WASPS stole Maine from the natives. What about their "way of life?"

I'd be thankful for the retirees and the increasing housing prices. That money can easily go elsewhere.

Please know this is just a rant. No offense intended.

I am absolutely thankful for the retirees - and I will retire off the increase in value from our real estate.  In the meantime, I'm transitioning my practice to serve the people joining us from away.  Simultaneously, I am afraid of what will happen when the fisheries finally die all the way.  Lots of people here are going to be really, really broke.  

SSB

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This thread is extremely enlightening to an outsider. If it is any guide Maine's issues are replicated around the world, all with local and different specific issues, but the outcomes are all identical in more places I can count.

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Grew up in Maine.  Loved it and the sailing. But I really hated sailing around the bazillions of lobster buoys on my last visit.  Didn't know about the lack of juvenile lobsters.  That's seriously disturbing.  Losing a way of life (and favorite crustacean) is a steep price to pay for sailing in unobstructed waterways....

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This thread is soul-crushing. :(

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I was thinking about the lobsters, and read an article today that suggests the science may be different from what I understood.  At least one study finds that the temperatures are about right for the lobsters themselves right now, but there may be a decline in microscopic crustaceans that they eat.  I don't yet understand what would be causing that decline, but one of the theories in that article is that the lobsters are starving in their juvenile form.  The article also posits that an increase in jellyfish may be resulting in increased predation of juvenile lobsters.  There is still a correlation between the increasing temperatures and the decrease in the reproduction rate of the species. 

I don't know which theory is right, but given the persistence of these posts, I wanted to add this information in case someone reads my first post, and it turns out to contain the wrong theory. Either way, the fishery is in trouble.   

I'm going home to eat lobster and pasta in a sherry cream sauce while I still can.   

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It will be tough on some but we'll survive. My take from living on this stretch of Maine coastline for 20 years: Fishing, isn't the big economic engine.

 

More than just tourists, we draw people that spend money, big money, and that money isn't well tracked. Maine is hard to get to, period. We'll never have industry the likes of Southern New England, unless we move the state closer to the big metropolitan areas. No amount of stupid signs along I95 that say "Your business could be here,..." is ever going to change that. 

 

Maine, because of our remote location, has always been a cheap date. She's no Nantucket. But cheap dates have been pretty good, for me(and I'm not alone). Maine - a little rough around the edges perhaps, she is no phony.

 

I've seen countless people that made it this far up the coast (most don't go above LL Bean,...), get that look in their eye, "I want to live here!" Then they look around at realestate and coming often from more expensive metro areas, their eyes light up. They fuel our huge big economic engine as they buy houses (some, 2, 3, even more), they buy boats, they buy businesses (some are still working), they set up businesses, they hire people like me (I've been adopted by one family that owns 4 houses in the area), they build, they maintain and maintain....Many of them love their life here because they realize, unlike Nantucket or Sag Harbor, this, Maine, is real. And a deal! 

 

And many of them also leave. Some try to make a go of a working life and find out, they don't have the tools, skills and parts, that fit in. 

 

But in the end, what the big engine does is this: They leave tons and tons and tons,... of their money,....behind!!! 

 

Case in point below: This wealthy philanthropist, not unusual in my area, invested in this old salt water farm. He married a local congress person and the big engine started up,...He built this state of the art organic farm that we can anchor off, use their beach (they leave it public, as they should). We picked up dinner at the farm stand. The farm supplies year round vegetables to the islanders (multiple green houses), employment for bright kids in agriculture, is a learning center for the islanders and visitors. It's beautiful and grounds are for the general public to enjoy. 

He also built a Hospice center in town, various houses, started businesses on the island and mainland, a big boat or two, and aaaaallll the maintenance and stuff, that goes along, he wrote the checks. He spent god only knows how much of his pile here, uncountable,  but it must be a good chunk of a bil. 

Then a divorce happened ( big machine likes that just fine ), and well he's gone,...but the money isn't. 

turner-farm-2018-crop-jpg.153847

 

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We are headed all the way east to Lubec in August. The local school closed there due to lack of kids. What we heard there was trying to live that far north/east year round was very tough. My impression from numerous visits to Maine is you don't need to go all that far away from the tourist areas to find poverty that would make a West Virginian go "damn that is a shitty trailer" :o

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What harbor is that?

Relevant to your story, my business partners from here in Texas used to own the old Edsel Ford estate on Seal Harbor, MDI. A kitchen staff of 5-7 in the summers, gardeners, etc. Eventually sold it to Martha Stewart, in the 25 years they owned it they left a LOT of money in Maine.

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1 hour ago, Cruisin Loser said:

What harbor is that?

Relevant to your story, my business partners from here in Texas used to own the old Edsel Ford estate on Seal Harbor, MDI. A kitchen staff of 5-7 in the summers, gardeners, etc. Eventually sold it to Martha Stewart, in the 25 years they owned it they left a LOT of money in Maine.

This is on the Fox Island Thoroughfare, eastern half. We're anchored between Waterman Cove and Kent Cove, off North Haven Island. We enter between Fish Pt. Ledge and Kent Ledge on the chart. It's a little open but in even moderate anything-Southerly, it's comfortable. I've never seen anyone anchored there. 

 

Skylands. The gardeners bill for some of these places is more than the yard bill for their yachts. :)

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Yeah, Skylands.  We used to spend a week there every summer.

They kept a pair of Jagrolets in front of the house for guest use. Jump in and go. All cars were taken to the garages  and washed every night, dirty or not. The driveways were crushed granite, and raked every night to erase tire tracks. They had a several mile running/walking path winding through the woods (the estate is 60 acres) covered with a thin layer of pine needles for cushioning. After the host and I would do a couple of afternoon laps, the yard people would go out and rake the pine needles back into place.

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22 hours ago, Kris Cringle said:

....Many of them love their life here because they realize, unlike Nantucket or Sag Harbor, this, Maine, is real. And a deal! 

Careful what you wish for.  Sag Harbor used to be real, too.  Once considered too far off the beaten path and rarely visited, it was very blue collar: locals interspersed with a few artists and 'city' people who weren't into the Hamptons scene.  Forty years later I barely recognize the town and largely avoid it other than to pay respects to my grandparents.

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On 7/18/2018 at 6:10 PM, Kris Cringle said:

This is on the Fox Island Thoroughfare, eastern half. We're anchored between Waterman Cove and Kent Cove, off North Haven Island. We enter between Fish Pt. Ledge and Kent Ledge on the chart. It's a little open but in even moderate anything-Southerly, it's comfortable. I've never seen anyone anchored there. 

 

Skylands. The gardeners bill for some of these places is more than the yard bill for their yachts. :)

Just went by there on the return this am. We’ve stayed at Carvers once. 

We’ve something of everything this year. Sun, champagne sailing, fog, fog with breeze, rain showers...the works. I’ve used every sail in the inventory and then some. Sitting in Dix right now, to get back to Thomaston tomorrow or the am after. We like to stay in Maplejuice on the first and last days. 

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Just returned from a land-based vacation trip to Maine. The coast in summer has to be the best place for classic wooden boat spotting anywhere. The amount of money visible just in brightwork is breathtaking. We did get out on the water on a windjammer in Camden, a tour boat in Acadia, and a friend's sailboat on Eggemoggin Reach. The attraction of cruising the coast and its islands is undeniable.  I can see why it attracts so much money for such a short season.

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