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.
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. His first commercial fishing boat was a 36-foot wooden boat built at a local yard, which he purchased with $2,000 given to him by his father upon graduation in 1963. He later replaced the original Oldsmobile V8 engine with the first diesel engine in town. Over the years, Bridges expanded his fleet to include a 42-foot glass boat and a 41-foot wooden boat, which he had built about 5 years prior to the interview in 2011. He uses the glass boat for shrimping in the winter and the wooden boat for lobstering. Bridges credits the wooden boat for his continued ability to fish, as it provides a smoother ride that is easier on his legs.
Scope and Content Note
This interview with Richard Bridges, conducted on June 22, 2011, provides a detailed account of his life and career as a commercial fisherman in Stonington, Maine. Bridges shares his early experiences in fishing, starting with setting traps at the age of seven. He discusses his family's history, including their temporary move to Connecticut during the war and their return to Maine for his upbringing. Bridges also provides insight into the evolution of his fishing career, from his first commercial fishing boat purchased in 1963 to his current fleet of a 42-foot glass boat and a 41-foot wooden boat. He discusses the differences between the two types of boats, emphasizing the superior ride of the wooden boat and its impact on his ability to continue fishing. The interview also touches on the social and community aspects of life in a small fishing town, including the role of the local telephone operator in keeping track of the young boys as they went about their fishing activities. Bridges' account offers a unique perspective on the changes in the fishing industry over the years, including the shift from owner-operators to larger corporate entities. He expresses his concern about the loss of fishing rights and the impact on the local community. Bridges also discusses the economic aspects of fishing, including the price fluctuations for different species of fish and the impact of these changes on his fishing practices. He shares his experiences with the Portland Fish Exchange and the competition from other fishing ports. The interview concludes with Bridges' reflections on the importance of fishing to the community and his concerns about the future of the industry. His narrative provides a valuable contribution to the understanding of the history and culture of commercial fishing in Stonington, Maine.
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