By Sheila Dassatt

        In most of our conversations these days, we refer to the issues as the “W” words, whales and windmills.  Take your pick, which one is the bigger threat to our fishing industry?  Last month, I wrote about a fun story, boat racing and good memories. This month, this particular subject is definitely escalating and I know that we need to address it.  There has been so much happening in the world this past year, with the Covid Virus, the isolation, the loss of so many loved ones, the elections and changing of the guard, all times of inevitable change.  You are familiar with the saying, SSDD, but actually, this isn’t exactly so, things are forever changing and the hard part is the capability to accept change, like it or not.  I know that we have all faced something in life that we cannot change and do the best that we can to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Some days, I find myself still dragging one foot, like there’s a lead weight on it!

        O.K., back to the story…..let’s start with whales.  I don’t know how far back the romance with whales actually goes, I know that Jonah was swallowed up by a whale, way back in Biblical times, with this kind whale spitting him back out and Jonah lived.  Then there’s the story of Moby Dick, which was a beautiful white whale, with quite a story that went with him.  He was also pictured as a glorious and mysterious mammal of the sea.  More recently, did a lot of this attention of mortality come with the movie “Free Willy?”  We all cried over that one.  The whale is and has been a highly romanticized mammal.

        Now, with the knowledge that the whale is an endangered species, no one wants to hurt the whales, especially the fishermen.  We have had Whale Take Teams that taught the fishermen how to deal with entanglement, until it got to be too dangerous and it was turned over to specialized teams doing the detangling.  People have actually been quite hurt and even lost their lives trying to save a whale. 

        I personally have been involved with the fishery in an association status for sixteen years now.  There was a lot to learn about representing our fishermen, families and our industry.  As far as I can look back, whales have been on the docket for saving.  I have two books that are at least three inches thick from 2007, that is the answer to any whale question that there is.  All of this is hours and hours of work, composing these rules and booklets that I guess are not useful any longer.  Do you ever feel that you have wasted a lot of time and money on your efforts?  We are only asking for the allotted time that we have been given to try to prove our efforts as not futile.  We all changed our lobster gear by adding purple sink rope markers at the buoy and halfway down the rope to mark the purple as the State of Maine identification if a whale is entangled.  Ok, this took a lot of time and money to do this to each piece of gear.  It has only been one season for this ruling and we are already being petitioned to come up with more answers and proposals. Has a whale been entangled with purple rope this year?  Enquiring minds would like to know the answer to this.  Let’s look at the big picture and then be the judge and jury.

        Now, our government is in the midst of change, with a lot of green energy in mind, this brings up the other “W” word, Windmills in the Ocean? Yes, we do need to address our “green” issues in this day and age, but let’s not rush into anything such as windmills in the ocean until it has been well researched and thought out. There is also useful sources of energy, such as solar power, which is also in the experimental stages of development.  Let’s look at this possibility as well.

        I don’t want to rain on Jack Merrill’s letter that he wrote concerning wind power in the ocean, but he definitely has made various good points about this.  Please read it on Facebook if you haven’t seen it yet.  I shared it on the Downeast Lobstermen’s Association site.  This proposal involves birds that can be injured, disrupting the bottom with laying cables, which disrupts lobsters and the habitat for other marine organisms that grow and thrive on the ocean bottom.  How many of us know that the wind turbines have an auxiliary power source that runs on diesel fuel that operates the turbines as well.  This opens the door for leakage or spills of petroleum into the ocean.  We also need to think about navigation of large vessels such as ocean tankers that have designated channels that they need to follow to enter their port of destination.  This is just the tip of the iceberg for concerns for all of us that work and make a living on the ocean.

        I could go on and on, but it is definitely time that we take our fishery into consideration.  We can’t take too many blows at once and can also be considered the Endangered Species.  We are doing the best that we can to survive and we will survive.  Remember, the fisherman has been part of our lives since the beginning of time!