Assessing Vulnerability and Resilience in Maine Fishing Communities

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  • This project developed a participatory, place-based approach for assessing the vulnerability and resilience of Maine fishing communities, documenting threats and resources available to respond to those threats. To understand the forces driving vulnerability, Johnson and graduate students Cameron Thompson and Anna Henry worked with community stakeholders to identify opportunities and strategies for improving resilience of fishing communities. They produced a summary report, entitled, “In Their Own Words: Fishermen’s Perspectives of Community Resilience.” 

    Once upon a time, Maine fishermen and women harvested a diversity of species, from groundfish and herring to lobsters, clams, shrimp, and scallops, depending on market conditions and resource abundance. Today, Maine’s fishing culture is concentrated in 50 coastal communities and is overwhelmingly dependent on lobster, while regulations have restricted other fisheries. Since 1990, the number of vessels landing groundfish in Maine dropped from 350 to 70. At least 72 groundfish permits have been lost, and dramatic changes in management are imminent, leading Johnson to wonder, “How vulnerable are Maine’s fishing communities? What can be done to improve their resiliency to future change?”

    These are the questions that federal fisheries managers must ask when assessing the impact of new rules, yet too often they don’t have the right data to answer the questions. This project developed a participatory, place-based approach for assessing the vulnerability and resilience of Maine fishing communities, documenting threats and resources available to respond to those threats. To understand the forces driving vulnerability, Johnson and graduate students Cameron Thompson and Anna Henry worked with community stakeholders to identify opportunities and strategies for improving resilience of fishing communities.

Interviewee Collection Sort descending Description Interviewer Date of Interview Location of Interview Affiliation
Paul Molyneaux Assessing Vulnerability and Resilience in Maine Fishing Communities

Paul Molyneaux was born in 1958 and has lived in various parts of Maine, including East Machias, Trescott, and Eastport. He began his career in the fishing industry in 1975, initially working in Key West, Florida, where he was involved in shrimp processing. In 1981, he moved to Maine and started fishing out of Rockland on groundfish and sword fishing draggers [4]. He also worked on scalloping during the wintertime. In 1986, Molyneaux moved to Eastern Maine to run the fish processing plant, Passamaquoddy Quality Seafood and Fillet, located on the Passamaquoddy Reservation.

Kevin Athearn East Machias, ME University of Maine
Doug Anderson Assessing Vulnerability and Resilience in Maine Fishing Communities

Douglas Anderson Jr. was born in 1948, in Rockland, Maine, and has spent his entire life in Port Clyde, Maine, where he currently resides. He comes from a long line of fishermen, with both his mother's and father's sides of the family deeply involved in the fishing industry. His father was contracted to build a herring plant in Port Clyde in the 1940s, and Douglas was introduced to the fishing lifestyle at a young age, much like a child growing up on a farm. His heritage and early exposure to the industry led him to pursue a career in fishing, which he has thoroughly enjoyed.

Anna Henry Port Clyde, ME University of Maine
John Phinney Assessing Vulnerability and Resilience in Maine Fishing Communities

John Phinney, born in 1967 in Utah, has spent most of his life in Lubec, Maine. His family has a long history in the seafood industry, with his father working as a fish buyer, coordinating with boats and processing plants. In the mid-70s, his family started a business on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, which they sold in the mid-80s to move to Lubec. After serving in the military for six years, Phinney took over the family business in 1998, renaming it Phinney Fisheries.

Cameron Thompson Lubec, ME University of Maine
Andy and Jim Barstow Assessing Vulnerability and Resilience in Maine Fishing Communities

Jim Barstow, born on September 21, 1943, in St. Louis, Missouri, during the Second World War, has spent most of his life in St. George, Maine. He moved to Maine in 1972 and has been living there ever since, drawn by the community and his childhood friends. Jim's entrepreneurial spirit led him to purchase and renovate the Ocean House Hotel, followed by the Seaside Inn, and eventually the Monhegan Boat Line in 1976. His family, particularly on his mother's side, hails from Pennsylvania and New York State, where they are primarily farmers.

Cameron Thompson Tenants Harbor, ME University of Maine
Dana Rice Assessing Vulnerability and Resilience in Maine Fishing Communities

Dana Rice, born in 1948, is a former groundfisherman from Birch Harbor, Maine. He began his fishing career in 1957, tub trawling with his family. Rice describes the fishing community of his time as subsistence living, with most families making enough to live comfortably but not able to accumulate much in savings. Groundfishing was only a small part of Rice's income, making up less than ten percent before he left the fishery in 1982.

Sara Randall Birch Harbor, ME University of Maine
Richard Bridges Assessing Vulnerability and Resilience in Maine Fishing Communities

Richard Bridges is a seasoned commercial fisherman from Stonington, Maine. He began his fishing career at a young age, setting 150 traps when he was just seven years old, alongside his best friend who was eight at the time. His family, originally from Swan's Island, moved to Connecticut for work during the war but returned to Maine when Bridges was born, believing it was a better place for a boy to grow up. Bridges started groundfishing commercially in 1964, and gill-netted out of Stonington from 1974 until 1984.

Sara Randall, Mike Kersula Stonington, ME University of Maine
Glenn Robbins Assessing Vulnerability and Resilience in Maine Fishing Communities

Glenn Robbins was born in January of 1947 in Castine, Maine. In this interview, he discusses his work teaching industrial arts and as a commercial fisherman. He has been fishing commercially since 1978.
 

Cameron Thompson Eliot, ME University of Maine
Benjamin Crocker, Sr. Assessing Vulnerability and Resilience in Maine Fishing Communities

Born in Machias Port in 1935, Benjamin "Benny" Crocker, Sr. fished along the Maine coast much of his life. He took part in the lobster fishery and also dragged for groundfish. In the interview, he recalls fish prices, locations where he fished, various boats he owned and how he lived and worked during those years.

Sara Randall Tenants Harbor, ME University of Maine
Stanley Sargent Assessing Vulnerability and Resilience in Maine Fishing Communities

Stanley Sargent, born in 1965 in Stonington, Maine, is a seasoned commercial fisherman hailing from the rugged coastlines of Maine, a state renowned for its rich maritime heritage. Born into a family with deep roots in the fishing industry, Sargent's life has been inextricably linked to the sea from an early age. His forebears were among the hardy souls who braved the Atlantic's capricious moods to haul in the bounties of the ocean, passing down their knowledge and passion for the craft through generations.

Sara Randall Milbridge, ME University of Maine
Howie Edwards Assessing Vulnerability and Resilience in Maine Fishing Communities

Interview with Howie Edwards, who was born in Rockland, Maine. In this oral history interview, he describes changes in the community of Rockland as well as the canning industry.

Cameron Thompson Rockland, ME University of Maine