BOOTHBAY HARBOR—On a chilly but sunny March afternoon, on the deck of Brady’s Restaurant about a dozen Mainers, some holding beers, watched a parade of lobster boats travel through the opening of the Boothbay Harbor Footbridge and into the inner harbor, right up to Brady’s deck, horns blaring and people cheering.
“The Footbridge where the boats are coming through is being renovated,” said Brady’s owner, Jennie Mitchell, who organized the impromptu event. “They took out the center section, and will be replacing it, so this will be the last time—ever—that any boats of this size will be in the inner harbor again.”
Mitchell said trying to get all of the lobstermen to gather on a Friday afternoon was like herding cats.
She stopped mid-sentence to shout across to a friend on a passing lobster boat, “Will you herd those cats, Paula!”
The lobster boats steamed toward Brady’s and in less than a span of 10 minutes, circled around and headed back through the Footbridge. The photos captured on that day show a scene that will never be reprised again.
Bill Hallinan, a Boothbay lobsterman and one of the parade participants, arrived to enjoy a brew. He and the other lobstermen were up for the idea of a boat parade to show solidarity with everyone in the industry who is currently under siege after the environmental group Seafood Watch put Maine and Canadian lobster on the detrimental “red list,” discouraging the public from buying lobster. The issue escalated over the debate that lobster fishing gear is responsible for the entanglement of right whales. [See related story: Photographer Cheryl Clegg captures what Maine lobstermen are going through lately]
“We were sitting around the bar hashing it over, and I think Jennie come up with the idea and we just kinda threw it all around, sounded like a great idea,” said Hallinan.
As of mid-March, Maine lobstermen are fighting back by suing the Monterey Bay Aquarium over the “red list” designation.
“I’m glad to see that happening,” said Hallinan. “I don’t think Monterey Bay has any right to falsely accuse us [of entangling right whales] when they don’t have any backup data.”
Troy Plummer, a member of the Maine Lobstermen's Association’s board of directors, also participated in the boat parade.
“What Monterey Bay Aquarium did was defame the entire industry with no real data or proof and it’s caused direct financial harm to us,” he said. “Last year we had the lowest price we’ve had in over a decade. When a corporation like Whole Foods drops the product entirely, it stands to reason there’s less demand and it’s going to hurt us.”
Local support has been strong, he said.
“Last year we started to get more public support from the community at large,” he said. “Banks stepped up; restaurants, lobster buyers, a lot of people.”
Asked what he wants the public to know about the red list designation or why Maine lobstermen are being targeted for right whale deaths, he responded: “I don’t know of a lobstermen who has ever seen a North Atlantic right whale and I know some lobstermen who’ve been fishing longer than I’ve been alive. The notion that we’re the ones entangling them is laughable. They’re not here. They’re off Canada or are in Cape Cod Bay. They transit our coast but further out than the entire Maine small boat fleet fishes. The government considers this body of water from Brady’s Footbridge, which is around six feet deep at high tide, all the way 200 miles offshore as ‘one place,’ so the right whales are in the Gulf of Maine for a short time but they’re counting this entire body of water as The Gulf of Maine. We fish primarily closer to shores than where the whales transit.”
Enjoy our gallery of photos and a new drone video courtesy BRTV Studio.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com