F R O M   T H E   C R O W E ’ S   N E S T


Empowering All

After a nine-year slog out of the post-banking/financial collapse and a price plunge for lobster, it might be time to rewrite the economics books. Lobster landings are down this year, as are boat prices. The cost of supplying and buying bait remains high. So much for the magical, mystical, invisible regulatory hand of the markets.

If not an era of new economic theory, it is a new era of environmental reality. The temperature-sensitive lobster is being pelted with a range of new environmental challenges. To date, water temperatures, ocean acidity, shifting ocean currents and new, unfamiliar marine neighbors moving into the Gulf of Maine are some of the known factors likely affecting the lifestyle of the lobster. The industry has seen more changes in the last 25 years than it might have seen in the previous 100 years.

Other changes are beginning to emerge in Maine’s coastal communities. Aquaculture is said to be the fastest-growing food production sector in the world. A range of aquaculture products and technologies has been under development for decades. How that development plays out for or against the fishing communities of Maine will depend on how actively involved the coastal communities are in governing these developments. Aquaculture and real estate development—aquaculture being a type of real estate development in that it lays down bottom boundaries—will increase competition for marine space.

The historic assumed right-of-entry to the lobster and other fisheries has become more difficult for young people. The Eastern Maine Skippers Program is designed to give high school students the tools to participate in their evolving communities. That participation can preserve and create occupational opportunities for themselves and others, while stabilizing communities in a time of potentially dramatic change. Information-gathering and community engagement are two basic tools the program emphasizes.

Preserving opportunities is key to preserving the long fishing heritage and community continuity that sets fishing communities apart from nearly all others. The quality of life and sense of community, which appear to have disappeared from cities and suburbia, is alive in fishing communities. Supporting family and community by gathering natural resources is the original economy. Empowering young people with tools and the will to engage in the 21st-century version of their ancestral economy empowers all in their communities.