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Posts Tagged ‘lobster’

Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/CSM.
Workers with Bangs Island Mussels, a Maine-based aquaculture company, harvest multiple lines of kelp in Casco Bay.

Humans never stop having to make adjustments. Consider all the confusing updates to your phone, problems with your printer, and the like. You are always having to learn something new.

Similarly, businesses have always had to adjust to market changes, floodplain dwellers have had to move to higher ground, families attacked by invaders have had to move to other countries … the list goes on.

Meanwhile, in Maine, lobster fishermen are having to consider new sources of income.

Stephanie Hanes wrote at the Christian Science Monitor, “The landing dock of the Portland Fish Exchange is busy this afternoon, in a way that almost reminds David Townsend of when there were still groundfish to catch in Casco Bay, when this pier was piled with cod and haddock … back before the fisheries collapsed.

“Now Mr. Townsend waves down to Justin Papkee, who has maneuvered his boat up to the dock. Mr. Papkee is a lobsterman. But hours earlier, he and his crew harvested thousands of pounds of sugar kelp, hauling the seaweed onto his boat from the ropes where it had been growing, cutting off the leafy blades and stuffing them into half-ton potato sacks. …

” ‘We love the new business,’ says Mr. Townsend. ‘This is the thing of the future.’

“Briana Warner smiles when she hears this. This is a new tune for the dockworkers, who not long ago grumbled about how their lives had descended to this, landing ocean weeds. But as the boats keep coming in, their enthusiasm for her efforts has grown. …

“It is her company, Atlantic Sea Farms, that is buying all of it, part of an ambitious effort to revamp not only Maine’s working waterfront, but also the way the state is fighting, and adjusting to, climate change. …

“Ms. Warner says, ‘We are presenting a climate change adaptation tactic that also does no harm, and in fact does positive things. … It makes the ocean better. It makes our coastal ecosystems better. It makes our coastal economy better. And it makes the consumer healthier.’ …

“The story of seaweed here in Maine, and how it is evolving into what some are calling Maine’s new cash crop, is part of a global story. … But it is also intensely local. And this, climate activists say, makes it even more important for understanding how humans around the world might adjust to a quickly changing planet.

“While few researchers would discount the importance of sweeping climate actions by international organizations and countries, there is a growing sense that, at least in the short term, real change will come from variations of what is happening in the waters off the coast of Maine. These will be place-specific initiatives. They will be based on cooperation and unity, not only between humans – the environmentally minded businesswoman and the sometimes conservative fishermen – but also among people and nature: the carbon and the kelp and the restaurateurs. …

“ ‘There’s no one silver bullet,’ says Susie Arnold, a marine scientist at the Island Institute, a Maine nonprofit focused on preserving the state’s working waterfront. ‘It’s going to take everybody. And at this point, we’ve taken such a toll on the Earth that there are going to have to be trade-offs.’ …

“For generations, life in this sparsely populated, ruggedly proud Northeastern state has focused on the ocean. Although Maine’s coast is only about 228 miles from north to south, when you include the various bays and inlets, the state’s shoreline measures more than California’s, totaling some 3,478 miles. Studies show that more than 80% of the household income in some communities traces back to fisheries. …

“For a generation now, lobster has been king of Maine’s seafood industry. It forms the base of a billion-dollar-plus business in the state, which provides the vast majority of domestically caught lobster in the United States. … And the people who hoist the traps take pride in crafting their own stringent measures to protect the fishery. They have imposed regulations on everything. ….

‘Lobster fishermen are notoriously good stewards of our coastal ecosystems,’ says Jesse Baines [of Atlantic Sea Farms]. ‘But we all know that the seasons are more variable every year.’

“Yet the seasons are not just more variable, starting unpredictably later or earlier. On the water, they are also warmer.   

“ ‘The Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest bodies of warming water in the world,’ says Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association. ‘And frankly, it’s incredibly scary how fast it’s happening.’

“The reason, scientists say, is climate change. As humans release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the air warms. Much of that heat is absorbed into the oceans. There are also ocean currents that some scientists believe are being disrupted. A shift in one particular circulation pattern has allowed warmer water coming up from the Gulf Stream to push away colder water coming down from Labrador, leaving warmer, saltier currents entering the Gulf of Maine. And that has prompted the lobster population to shift northward. …

“The warmer water has caused other species to migrate to the area, including the endangered right whale. Legal battles have erupted among the lobster industry, interest groups, and the federal government over protecting the mammal. Looking at all of this, economic development experts throughout the state are worried about the risk of so much of Maine’s economy being dependent on lobster. …

“Before she and her family moved to Maine, her husband’s native state, in 2013, Ms. Warner had spent nearly a decade as a U.S. Foreign Service economic development officer based in multiple African countries. There, she watched the struggles of individuals and communities working against forces far larger than themselves. And so she recognized what she was seeing in Maine.

“ ‘It’s just really devastating to see an industry that has taken such a leadership role in conservation and has no ability to stop the volatility because of the greater world’s usage of fossil fuels,’ she says. ‘No matter what the lobster fishery does, they can only control so much because the ocean is just warming.’

“The industry needed another way to make money, she realized – one that would be ecologically helpful instead of harmful. …

“The seaweed known as Saccharina latissima, or sugar kelp, is a yellowish brown alga that grows along rocky coastlines. It takes the shape of an elongated lasagna noodle, with crinkled edges, and can grow up to 16 feet long.

“It is high in a variety of nutrients, and also has a gelling capacity that makes it a useful ingredient for everything from cosmetics to ice cream to toothpaste. And like all plants, kelp absorbs carbon while giving off oxygen. …

“The idea of kelp as both a food source and an environmental solution is not new. Indigenous people in the Americas harvested kelp for generations. In Asia, it’s part of a multibillion-dollar seaweed farming industry.  

“But in the U.S., where far fewer people eat seaweed, there has been scant commercial interest in kelp farming until recently. … Although seaweed currently makes up only a small percentage of [the aquaculture] industry, it is the fastest-growing subsector, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. …

“ ‘The kelp is sucking carbon dioxide directly out of the water, and actually reducing the acidity of the water in its general vicinity,’ [says one kelp farmer]. ‘So if you put the kelp close enough to the mussels, we have measurable, significant evidence showing that the kelp halo effect helps the mussels grow bigger and faster.’ ”

More at the Monitor, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe (WHAT a picture! Rinaldi is among the best.)
Virginia Oliver tossed back an undersized lobster as she and her son, Max, haul traps in Maine.

Are you ready for another story about someone loving their job at an advanced age? Brian MacQuarrie of the Boston Globe interviewed a 101-year-old woman who still fishes for lobster — Virginia Oliver of South Thomaston, Maine.

“It’s not yet 5 a.m.,” he writes, “and the landing at the Spruce Head Fishermen’s Co-op is shrouded in predawn fog that obscures the waters beyond. It’s time to go to work, and Virginia Oliver and her son Max approach the dock in the dark in a 30-foot lobster boat.

“They tie up under the stark, mist-speckled glare from an overhead light. Bait is brought aboard, equipment adjusted, and Max peers into the gloom as he eases the boat into Penobscot Bay.

“In the world of Maine lobstering, it’s a scene that is repeated countless times up and down the state’s rugged coast. But here’s the difference: No other boat has a 101-year-old lobsterwoman aboard, and a fully working one at that.

” ‘I grew up with this,’ said Virginia Oliver, a Rockland woman who began lobstering when she was 8, just before the Great Depression. ‘It’s not hard work for me. It might be for somebody else, but not me.’ …

“The fog began to burn off shortly before 7 a.m., and … Max pointed out a ‘sweet spot’ for lobstering among the many small, rocky islands.

“His mother came to work this day with a bit of makeup on her face, her blue eyes and a pair of small earrings twinkling in the hazy dawn. …

“Virginia Oliver has been working these waters since she first accompanied her lobsterman father as a young girl. After raising four children, she returned to the bay with her husband, who died 15 years ago. Since then, she has continued to venture from shore, three mornings a week, to a saltwater world as familiar as the street where she was born and still lives.

“ ‘When I first started, there weren’t any women but me,’ Oliver said, dressed in olive-green overalls, a blue sweatshirt, and high boots. ‘My husband and I used to go out in all kinds of weather. There aren’t as many lobsters today, though. They’re way overfished, like everything else.’

“Oliver’s job is to measure the lobsters, using pliers to place tight bands around the claws of the keepers, tossing the undersized overboard, and stuffing small pogies into bait bags.

“Naturally right-handed, Oliver has worked the pliers with her left hand since she broke her right wrist several years ago. Despite the change, her hand movements seem remarkably supple and strong. …

“Oliver is meticulous when she measures, tossing back lobsters that are only a hair shorter than the 3¼-inch legal minimum from the eye socket to the rear of the body shell. She also can’t keep egg-bearing or reproductive females, a state requirement that helps bolster the lobster stock. …

“Max Oliver, 78, does double duty as helmsman and hauler, emptying every trap that a hydraulic wheel pulls from the water. Between mother and son, they have choreographed an intricate ballet of demanding, physical work that’s conducted quietly and efficiently.

“Max chuckled over his mother’s stamina and work ethic.

“ ‘It’s pretty damn good, that’s what I call it,’ he said, maneuvering the boat in low water past pine-studded islands. ‘She might give me hell once in a while, though,’ he added with a laugh. ‘She’s the boss.’ …

“Her son drives her to the boat during lobster season, which for the Olivers stretches from the end of May to the beginning of November. They rise about 3 a.m., go to bed at 10 p.m., and look mildly amused when asked how they manage it.

“Oliver said she doesn’t nap when the lobstering is done for the day. There’s shopping to do; there are errands and trips to the post office.

“ ‘I find plenty of housework, too. I don’t like to do it, but I have to do it,’ she said. … ‘I still drive — a GMC four-wheel-drive truck. As you can tell, I’m pretty independent.’

“Her three sons and one daughter range in age from 76 to 82. One of them, 79-year-old Bill, waited at the Spruce Head Co-op this recent morning as he prepared to go lobstering in a separate boat. His mother’s work habits seem to run in the family.

“ ‘Someone asked me, why don’t you retire? I said, “I can’t. My mother would break my neck.” ‘ “

Read more and enjoy all Jessica Rinaldi’s amazing photos of this woman at the Globe, here.

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Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press
“The Maine Lobstermen’s Association said about 30,000 miles of rope has been removed from the ocean’s surface,” the
New York Times reported last year. That’s important for saving the lives of the remaining right whales, but it won’t be enough.

This morning, three Blue Jays were arguing over something they thought was good to eat in my backyard, and I got to thinking about how my attitudes are evolving as from the kitchen window I watch creatures come and go during the pandemic.

It occurred to me that the Blue Jays don’t know it’s my backyard. They don’t even have a way of registering the information. Nor, for that matter, do the baby skunk, the possum, the chipmunks, the squirrels, the cardinals, or the numerous rabbits.

Perhaps we’re all just a bunch of critters using this space for now.

That’s my prelude to a post on the conflicting interests of the endangered North Atlantic right whale and the lobster fisherman.

Some lobster fishermen are doing their bit to live in harmony with nature. Karen Weintraub reported on this issue at the New York Times late last year, after a right whale well known to scientists was found dead.

“Marc Palombo has been fishing lobster for 41 years, and he wants fishermen who come after him to be able to do the same. That’s why he’s testing a new type of fishing gear that, along with other efforts in New England and Canada, is being designed to avoid harming North Atlantic right whales. …

“This year [2019], about 10 have been found dead, but that number is uncertain. Not one of the nearly 30 right whale deaths in the last three years has been attributed to natural causes, said Philip Hamilton, a research scientist with the New England Aquarium, which maintains a catalog of North Atlantic right whales. Mr. Hamilton blames climate change, which has driven the whales northward in search of food.

“Over the last decade, warming in the Gulf of Maine has driven zooplankton, which the whales feed on, northward into Canada’s waters. As the whales follow, they are swimming across fishing and shipping lanes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where they are vulnerable to being struck by ships or entangled in fishing lines — often long lines of rope connecting buoys at the surface with traps at the bottom.

“ ‘The only way to save the right whale is to have all stakeholders, including industry, at the table collaborating on proactive solutions that will protect them while ensuring the future of the lobstering industry,’ Patrick Ramage, director of Marine Conservation, for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said in a statement.

“Fishermen, like Mr. Palombo, and others have been testing new equipment, like ropeless gear, to protect the passing whales, and their fishing livelihood. …

“ ‘We know that entanglements in fishing gear and collisions with ships are killing these ocean giants,’ Megan Jordan, spokeswoman for Oceana, an international advocacy and conservation organization, said via email. ‘Reducing the amount of vertical lines from fishing gear in the water and requiring ships to slow down can help save North Atlantic right whales from extinction.’ …

“In Canada, a multipronged effort to protect the North Atlantic right whales is underway. After 17 whales were killed in the 2017 fishing season, including 12 in Canada’s waters, the Canadian government initiated a three-year research project. …

“For example, snow crab fishermen in the Gulf of St. Lawrence use rope that can withstand 14,000 pounds of force, Mr. Cormier said. His team is testing rope that breaks below 1,700 pounds, a weight that would allow a whale to free itself. …

“[Meanwhile,] the Maine Lobstermen’s Association recently pulled out of an agreement to reduce the number of fishing ropes in the water by 60 percent. The association’s executive director, Patrice McCarron, said the deal treats Maine lobstermen unfairly, because their fishing gear has not been the cause of any of the whale deaths in the last five years. She also said almost 30,000 miles of floating rope have been replaced with line that sinks.

“Mr. Palombo and collaborators at the New England Aquariumare testing a ropeless system that would leave lobster pots attached to a spool of rope at the bottom of the sea rather than to a buoy on the surface. A few days after setting his pots during a testing, Mr. Palombo headed back to the area and pushed a button on his boat that sent an audio signal to the spool. The rope rose to the surface where it took only a few minutes to retrieve.

“ ‘It’s pretty gratifying,’ he said about testing the ropeless system. ‘We’re the adventurers, we’re the people that are breaking the ground.’ ” More here.

In January, David Abel at the Boston Globe reported on delays in new regulations: “Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is responsible for protecting the critically endangered species, had planned to issue the regulations last year. But they were delayed after months of criticism from the region’s powerful lobster industry, which is worried that new requirements could be harsh and expensive.”

I sure am hoping for compromises that take everyone’s concerns seriously, including the whales’.

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On the principle that “one and one and 50 make a million,” a better world relies on everybody pitching in. Ordinary people can help scientists and other leaders of worthy initiatives.

Lisa Mullins and Lynn Jolicoeur report at WBUR on one example.

“It’s a cloudy, cool July morning, and we’ve come to the docks at Fairhaven Shipyard, near New Bedford, to meet Chris Parks. She’s a tall, elegant, retired Boston banker in jeans and a sweatshirt.

“Parks is a volunteer with the Buzzards Bay Coalition. Residents formed the group 30 years ago to help the struggling bay.

“She’s got a plastic bottle attached to a long metal pole. She submerges it and fills it with sea water. Then she pulls out her tool box full of vials and chemicals. She mixes and measures.

“Parks determines the water is pretty cool on this day — 67 degrees. … In addition to temperature and clarity, Parks tests the water for how much salt and oxygen are in it. She’s been coming to this dock, fastidiously, one or two mornings a week for 17 years.

” ‘I’m doing it because it’s one of the few things that I can do that is a tangible task towards helping the environment,’ Parks says. ‘It’s a little bit of science that helps tell us what’s going on in Buzzards Bay.’

“What’s going on is that the water is warming — and that may be contributing to long-lasting pollution problems in the bay.”

Buzzards Bay Coalition science director Rachel Jakuba says, ” ‘If you have too much algae in the water, that’s when you get cloudy, murky water, loss of eel grass, low oxygen levels that make it hard for fish and shellfish to survive … Bay scallops are very rare now because part of their life cycle depends on eel grass blades.’

“The Buzzards Bay Coalition is attacking that pollution aggressively. It’s working with homeowners to upgrade their septic systems with technology that reduces nitrogen. …

“Jakuba says as researchers figure out how global warming fits into the bay pollution picture, citizen scientists will be key.

“Mark Sweitzer, 68, is a citizen scientist and lobsterman based at Point Judith in Galilee, Rhode Island. …

“Six times a month while he’s catching lobster, Sweitzer lowers a device to the bottom of the ocean — about 200 feet. It tracks the temperature and other characteristics of the water at every depth, and it syncs the data to an iPad on board. …

” ‘I’m just happy to do it, because I feel like I’m providing some information — even though it might not have immediate effect on my boat, but in long-term trends in the fishery and how it might influence policy or regulations,’ Sweitzer says. …’

” The settlers — the tiny little ones that are four days old that have reached the bottom — there is a temperature at which they will not survive … and there are temperatures at which we have an influx of fish. Black sea bass used to be primarily a mid-Atlantic fish. And now … the black sea bass are down there gobbling up these little lobsters that don’t have much of a chance to make it in the first place.’ ”

Read how other fishermen are noticing ocean changes before scientists do and reporting back, here.

We have a friend who sets lobster pots off New Shoreham, Rhode Island. His catch has gone down steadily over the past few years, so I know there is a problem.

Photo: Mark Degon/WBUR
Lobsterman Mark Sweitzer works out of Point Judith, Rhode Island.

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On Tuesday, a group from work set out at lunchtime for lobster rolls (and shrimp rolls and crab rolls) at James Hook & Co., whose golden lobster weathervane appeared in one of my previous posts.

Then we joined the crowds on the Harbor Walk to luxuriate in tall ships and a gorgeous sky.

A vessel flying the Jolly Roger was dwarfed by the triumphs of modern capitalism. (I won’t say “piracy” because I have no idea what goes on in those buildings.)

 

A teaching schooner called the “Roseway,” from the World Ocean School, was taking tourists out.

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John leads the way for the end-of-summer clambake, rallying Suzanne and Erik to go with him first to collect driftwood, then to swim out to where there is good seaweed on the rocks.

It’s an all-day project ultimately involving six adults and one toddler.

Rocks get placed in a pit, wood gets burned on top, wood coals get shoveled out, lobsters, seaweed, potatoes, corn, clams, mussels in cheesecloth, seawater, and more seaweed get dumped on the very hot rocks, a tarpaulin covers everything and is sealed with more rocks so the steam stays in.

After a couple hours, newspaper gets spread for  a tablecloth, the neighbors arrive, and the tarp is whipped off.

In the kitchen, Meran has made a salad with her garden’s tomatoes, plus spaghetti with fresh clam sauce. Sandra has brought an assortment of her famed homemade cookies. Patrick has brought extra utensils for cracking open lobster claws.

If you want to learn more, do what John does. He searches the Internet on “how to do a clambake” and reads several websites.

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Near where I work in Boston, there is something new to see every day.

Here are two shots of the ever picturesque North End. 

Here are shots of the harbor post-Irene and the James Hook & Co. golden lobster.

And here are the deep red plants that attracted a hummingbird outside the cafeteria yesterday. He didn’t show up today for his screen test, so I borrowed someone else’s hummingbird.

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The first art opening of the season at Jessie Edwards Studio is great not only for the art but for catching up with friends after the long winter.

I greeted David and asked why he hadn’t been at the 350th anniversary festivities, given that his family goes back so far on the island. He said he had been putting in lobster pots that day. He has put in 30 this year. Last Saturday he pulled 11 lobsters, which he doesn’t think is much for 30 pots. His extended family eats them all.

Another friend is writing a biography of his parents, which he intends to self-publish. He hopes the cost doesn’t keep him from getting the words that he wants on his tombstone: “I broke even.”

Given the crowds at openings and all the catching up, you have to be pretty determined to see the art. I nudged my way through temporary gaps and checked out everything.

Kathleen Noonan Lang was showing her island monotypes. See them here. I especially liked her “Sailor’s Delight,” with its rosy evening sky reminiscent of the weather rhyme “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”

When my cousin Sally had a show of her monotypes in Connecticut, I asked her to describe her approach. She wrote:

“To make a monotype, you basically create an image on a sheet of plexiglass and run it through a press. There are dozens of techniques but my tools of choice are primarily paper towels and Q-tips; very sophisticated. I roll on a layer of ink on the plate and then push it around with the paper towels and Q-tips, run it through a press and then work on the plate again and print another layer. Often I’ll develop several prints at one time, working on the ghost impression left over on the plate, rolling on a transparent base to raise the viscosity of the remaining ink (as my father would have said), and print it again. That’s the short version. Most of my monotypes have 3-4 layers. It is a very exciting process and there is always an element of surprise as when the paper is pulled from the plate.”

I like that sort of surprise.  It’s kind of like writing a blog post and being surprised by where your train of thought leads you. In playwriting class we are encouraged to surprise ourselves that way.

I wanted to include some clay art from Suzanne here, but she says she hasn’t been taking pottery long enough to have anything to display. Her brother said, “How about the shell she painted for my birthday?”

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In case you find yourself with too many lobster pots, consider this approach, suitably embellished with the U.S. flag for the Glorious Fourth. (If you don’t live in the U.S., you could skip the flag.)

 

 

 

There is quite a variety of flowers here. The blue ones on tall stems in the front are called chicory by most people but Ragged Sailor in Rhode Island.

If you have any creative ways you have retired your own lobster posts, do leave a comment.

 

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