Bob and Helene Quinn

Location of Interview
Collection Name

The Working Waterfront Festival Community Documentation Project


The Working Waterfront Festival Community  Documentation Project is an ongoing oral history project documenting the history and culture of the commercial fishing industry and other port trades. The project was begun in 2004 in conjunction with the Working Waterfront Festival, an annual, education celebration of commercial fishing culture which takes place in New Bedford, MA. Interviewees have included a wide range of individuals connected to the commercial fishing industry and/or other aspects of the port through work or familial ties. While the majority of interviewees are from the port of New Bedford, the project has also documented numerous individuals  from other ports around the country. Folklorist and    Festival Director Laura Orleans and Community Scholar/Associate Director Kirsten Bendiksen are Project Leaders. The original recordings reside at the National Council for the Traditional Arts in Maryland with listening copies housed at the Festival's New Bedford office.

Date of Interview
Biographical Sketch

Bob Quinn and Helene Quinn and their ancestors have lived and worked on Eagle Island in Penobscot Bay Maine for generations. Bob got his start working on a pumper in the sardine industry and eventually began lobstering. Bob is now passing the torch to his grandson, Sam, who is eagerly embracing a life at sea. Helene Quinn is Bob's wife. She hails from Rockland, Maine, and has deep roots on Eagle Island. Samuel Quinn Russo, aged 12 during the interview, is Bob and Helene's grandson. He represents the younger generation that is actively embracing the family's fishing traditions. 

Scope and Content Note
Bob, Helene, and Samuel discuss their family's multi-generational connection to Eagle Island, their involvement in the fishing industry, the transition from the sardine industry to lobstering, the use of innovative technologies like pumpers, the impact of electronics and hydraulics on fishing practices, and the changing dynamics within the fishing industry. The interview reflects on the socio-cultural aspects of family roles, island life, and the economic dimensions of the fishing trade, especially focusing on the herring and lobster species.  The narrators discusse various aspects of lobster fishing, including changes in the industry, fishing techniques, regulations, and the experiences of those involved. It touches on the transition from wooden traps to wire traps in the 1970s, the effects of trap limits on fishing practices, and the challenges of managing lobster populations. Bob talks about his son’s involvement in lobstering and his apprenticeship process. There's also a mention of documenting different types of lobsters, homeschooling, and the their perspective on the value of practical experience over traditional schooling. The interview briefly touches on the challenges of lobster conservation, territorialism among lobstermen, and the impact of regulations on the industry. Finally, there's a discussion about the future of lobster fishing, potential changes in regulations, and the growth of lobster fishing communities like Stonington.

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