By Sheila Dassatt
With this month of November showing the first signs that another winter is fast approaching. This morning it was a brisk 25 degrees and a little blanket of snow on the ground. Gosh, last winter was such a difficult one that I haven’t seen one soul yet that is looking forward to this fast approaching winter season. We are observing Veteran’s Day this weekend, which is always a humble tribute to all of our service people that have made the supreme sacrifice as well as those that served their time for our cause. Thank you to all!
Christmas ads have started before Thanksgiving, with a possible three allotted days to actually observe Thanksgiving before the hype of Christmas ads, showing people buying such gifts as a Lincoln or Jaguar from Santa Clause. Imagine! Times have certainly changed haven’t they? I can remember “Trick or Treating for Unicef” and thinking that I was missing out on a big bag of candy. Now that I’m older, I am so glad that we did those things for charity. A lot of folks would pick one or two of their favorite charities and gift them in a loved ones memory instead of all of the materialism that is being crammed in our faces now. Please, don’t take me wrong, a lot of those things still go on with the blessings of loved ones that really need the help.
How does this all tie in with our fishery? Times have changed there as well. Granted, we cannot control the fact that “time marches on” any more than we can control the weather. All of the talk now is centered around “Climate change.” I have already been asked by the Associated Press if we are in a traditional downturn or if climate is having an effect on our lobsters this season. What do you think? That is what my Dad would say is a “million dollar question.” Traditionally, we do have a downturn every so many years, as our biologists will tell us. Yes, the seasons do seem to be a little odd lately, but it isn’t always a warming trend. It is becoming very cold way before its time, such as last fall and this fall is shaping up the same way. We’re having February temperatures in November and December. These poor lobsters don’t know if they’re coming or going when it comes to their molting season! Traps will start coming in for the season, showing a downturn, then the lobsters will come on strong once again in December and part of January. I am just reflecting on how it went for our fishing last year due to the fact that we stayed in over the winter. The problem was, it was so cold that we couldn’t get out very often and when we did, we found ourselves breaking through surface ice to get to our gear.
There could be a shortage of lobsters for various reasons. Who’s to say that there isn’t a shortage because there’s only so many legal sized lobsters out there to catch? Times have certainly changed as far as our overhead. I don’t want to repeat myself like a broken record from previous articles, but it is like a domino effect. As we go bigger with our fishing operations, larger boats need more bait, more fuel, larger boat payments, more boat insurance coverage, a larger crew and definitely more catch of lobsters. With this theory, the more lobster that we bring in, the dealers may need to expand their wharf space, their trucks for transport, and a larger span of customers to move them to in a timely manner, which means more truck drivers and dock attendants. We need more bait at the wharves that also supply bait, which also means transport. Generally, we need to go and see our “friendly” banker to fund us for all of these “improvements.” Before we know it, as long as everything is going well, all is well and we keep expanding with extended credit. Our mind is thinking that with a good season, we can pay down the principal on our loans and be ahead of the game. If there is a decline that year, it paints a totally different story. So which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is there a decline because of climate change or are we exhausting our healthy resource due to supply and demand or the need to “pay the company store?” Or in this case, the banks. I don’t know the answer, but it definitely is “food for thought.” Won’t be long and there will be grants out there to study this situation as well. The grants will provide jobs for those that are studying political science and scientists, biologists, etc.
When I was a little girl, we lived on the waterfront not far from Clyde Conary’s lobster wharf in Greenhead, Stonington. We all had houses on the water back then, with either a wharf or mooring right in front of our homes. It was handy, because we could walk to the wharf and boat. The only pickups we had then were flatbed Cadillacs and Pontiacs that were cut just after the front seat and a wooden flat bed was the rest of the body. I remember them well! There’s nothing wrong with progress, but now there’s pick up trucks that cost more than our first house cost our family. Times are changing……I also remember that living on the waterfront was right up there with living in “Puddle Dock.” Which is where all of us poor folk lived. Now, those houses have been purchased, fixed up and owned by summer folk that changed the dynamics of the waterfront in most coastal towns. They have certainly dressed things up on the waterfront and also changed our tax bases. Most local folks now live on the outskirts of town or the next smaller town in order to stay afloat. There’s nothing wrong with dressing things up and making them pleasant, but we need to pay close attention to preserving our working waterfronts the best that we can. Our coastline in Maine is shrinking all of the time when it comes to actual space for our fishing operations. The proof is in the pudding. Take a closer look at the shape of things around us. Traditionally, we want to maintain our fishery and operations so our next generation can continue on. When we’re in our twenties, we think differently than when we reach retirement age. We have our children and children’s children that we need to lead the way for. It all happens with just the blink of an eye.
Take care and let’s set our course to the future. By the way, have a Happy Thanksgiving!