Vol. 9, No. 4  April 2004    News & Comment for and by the Fishermen of Maine          SUBSCRIBE NOW!!
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Urchins: Too Little Too Late?
by Jeff Della Penna

   If there were a category in Maine for all-time boom and bust fisheries, the green sea urchin (strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) would take the prize. At its peak, 2,400 licensed urchin divers/draggers were taking more than 40 million pounds from Maine’s coastal waters. Now, just 10 years after that peak, only 742 fishermen remain in the fishery and the stocks, according to the Department of Marine Resources (DMR), have dropped to less than 10 percent of their original 1987 biomass. In fact, Maggie Hunter, head DMR scientist for the urchin fishery, reports that in just the last year, the estimated exploitable biomass for Zone 1 has dropped by almost 40 percent.
   From it’s boom of 40 million pounds, the 2003-2004 urchin landings (which are still being tabulated) will probably come in at well below 6 million.
   “It’s my intention to close Zone 1,” George Lapointe, the commissioner of the DMR, told the standing-room-only crowd during the urchin session at the recent Fishermen’s Forum. “How long? Maybe four years. I don’t know.” He said that he wasn’t sure yet about Zone 2, but was seriously considering closing it, as well.
   The news hit fishermen from both Zones hard. When Lapointe first made his intentions public at the Sea Urchin Zone Council Meeting, February 12, in Orland, he was met with anger and some outrage. But, at the forum (March 6th) there was a different tone, as fishermen from both zones scrambled to offer compromises and in some cases, beg for their jobs.

From it’s boom of 40 million pounds, the 2003-2004 urchin landings (which are still being tabulated) will probably come in at well below 6 million.(Photos Bob Steneck, University of Maine, Maine Department of Marine Resources)

   “It will completely devastate the people of Cobscook Bay, where there’s nothing else to do but fish,” Leo Murray, a member of the Sea Urchin Zone Council and representative of the Cobscook Bay Fishermen’s Association said. Murray had come to the forum with a proposal to keep the Cobscook Bay, which is one of the areas that is least depleted, open for a special 60-day season, nearly a third shorter than the current 84 days.
  Now the DMR and urchin fishermen are gearing up for the annual Sea Urchin

Summit, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 3, at the Ellsworth Middle School. But Hunter, in a phone interview just before press time, didn’t offer much room for hope that Lapointe’s decisions could be swayed. “Commissioner Lapointe came out saying that he is planning to close Zone 1, and if there is any fishery in Zone 2, it is going to be pretty drastically reduced,” Hunter said. “The last time that I talked with him, he was saying that he planned to stick to that statement at the Urchin Summit meeting.”


Made in Maine
by Mike Crowe

   Although Maine has never had a significant gun manufacturing industry like Massachusetts and Connecticut, during the Civil War, Bangor gun maker C.V. Ramsdell produced some of the best rifles used by Union sharpshooters. Master gunmakers like Bill Morrison of Bradford, who builds a few precision rifles for competition shooting, is more typical of Maine’s gun making past, than the few mass producers in the state.
   Maine’s gunsmithing roots can be traced back to the 1600’s when Maine was the colonial frontier. Settlements, English and Indian, were most often established where rivers met the coast. Maine was originally a province of Massachusetts, a state which very early ordered every man to own and maintain a firearm. The constitutional right to bear arms, in fact, has deeper roots with the requirement to bear arms in pre-revolutionary colonial America.
   These early colonial flintlocks were relatively simple, but few people had the skills and tools to repair them. Powder and a ball were rammed down the muzzle. The powder was ignited by flint attached to a spring-loaded hammer that created a spark when released by the trigger. It was these metal moving parts that usually needed service. Generally, gunsmiths repaired guns and gunmakers manufactured them, but some did both. Metal-workers, such as blacksmiths and clockmakers, were often gunsmiths, as well.
   Englishman James Phips arrived in Pemaquid, Maine in 1639 and immediately started a blacksmith and gunsmith business on Phips Pt., just west of Westport Island. Phips is one of the earliest recorded Maine gunsmiths. Although not much is known about his productivity, after he died in 1654 his wife remarried and before she died was known to have given birth to 26 children with her two husbands.


The earliest recorded gunsmith in Maine got started in 1639. Some gunsmiths were also
gunmakers and both were needed at a time when it was required that every man own and
maintain a firearm. The Maine frontier needed gunsmiths, gunmakers and innovators.
Some finely crafted the stock and metal parts, others focused on improving the accuracy.
Photo courtesy Paul S. Plumer and the Maine State Museum.


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