I spent a sunny Sunday afternoon in Stonington, enjoying Fishermen's Day – a celebration of fishermen hosted by the Island Fishermen's Wives Association. It was a great chance to meet folks in the community who are supporting the fisheries and the broader community. I spoke with about twenty people about their community, and about GSM's work. I explained that I am traveling Downeast for a few days to get a sense of what's working and what's not for their economy, environment, and communities. When these three things are healthy and in sync, Maine grows stronger; but if even one of them is struggling, the whole community is at risk.
I learned of efforts to encourage more local foods, the Island Culinary and Ecological Center ( edibleisland.org ), and from the Downeast Lobstermen's Association (downeastlobstermen.org) I learned there are 400 lobstermen landing their catch in this town; last year that totaled 13.9 million pounds of lobster, worth $44 million, making Stonington the largest American lobster port. Stonington is also the top value port for overall fisheries in Maine, and among the top ten ….! There is a local land conservation group, Island Heritage Trust, whose mission is “working to protect the environmental and scenic qualities that make the Deer Isle and Stonington communities special” ( islandheritagetrust.org ). I also had a nice chat with the people of Commercial Fisheries News ( www.fish-news.com )
The Inland Fishermen's Wives Association was formed in 1989 in response to the tragic loss of two fishermen at sea within just a few weeks. Their work has broadened from the original mission of creating a memorial to all fishermen lost at sea and improving safety, to preserving the fishing heritage and educating the public about the fishing industry. ( http://www.facebook.com/pages/Island-Fishermens-Wives-Association/341802903499 )
I'll continue these conversations another day, when folks are not focused on the events of Fishermen's Day. Will do more research too on the arts component of the economy here; with the Opera House and Haystack. There is much GSM can do; highlight their efforts so those in other parts of Maine can see what is working, and connect them with people who are striving for the same things they are.
I do have to say though, the highlight of the day for me was watching the Cod Relay Race, where teams of four people had to don a pair of fishermen's overalls, run a short distance with two large, um, seasoned, codfish, then drop the fish and the overalls so their teammate could take on the next leg. It's always good to have a little fun while highlighting the importance of a diverse fishing industry.