|Lobster sweatshirts and live lobsters for sale at Shaw's Restaurant in New Harbor, Maine.|
The only legal way to catch lobsters in Maine is with traps of a specific design, by lobstermen with the right licence and then there are volumes of regulations depending on which area is being fished. As with most commercial fishing, it's hard, cold and dangerous work and the people who do it are from families who have been doing the same for generations.
|A typical Maine lobster boat.|
|The South Bristol Co-op.|
|Lobsterman looking for his buoys.|
|Sorting the catch at the end of the day.|
Click here to watch lobstermen sorting a day's catch.
We set out sometime between four or five a.m. I'd asked before hand what I should wear and the lobsterman hesitated before saying in his very slow Down-East accent: "Nothin' good". I hadn't intended to wear smart casual but when I got to the boat he handed me bibbed overalls to put over my grungy jeans and sweatshirt. For a short time I think I could have passed for the real deal. Well, at least to someone from away.
|A customer at the South Bristol Coop.|
Once we hit the roly-poly---and it really was---I began to realise why Mrs sternman wasn't so keen on this gig. It is a real art to staying upright when using both hands to spear fish and bait traps when it's wet underfoot and the boat is constantly turning broadside to the waves. It also wasn't long before I started regretting my breakfast of hash browns, bacon and eggs. I noticed that the captain only nibbled the odd dry cracker all day long. I spent hours sliding around like a drunken jitterbug dancer while struggling not to do the old technicolor yawn and reprise my breakfast.
|The wooden half-round traps of my youth have been exchanged for|
rectangular wire ones. This display is at the Maine State Museum in Augusta.
Lobstering is not only a skill bordering on a black art but it's also a very clannish profession. There are only so many lobsters down there and the thought of letting a newcomer drop traps in the lobstermen's yard is not always a welcome one. A turf war a couple of years ago in Maine ended in a couple of lobstermen shooting each other.
|Once in a blue moon a blue lobster is caught.|
|We asked my grand niece not to play with her food.|
|The Bath Maritime Museum has an excellent exhibition on the lobster industry.|
And it has a lot more. Well worth a visit.
|Inland Mainers (not "Maniacs") hated the lobster licence plates. There were |
also those who thought a dead animal was inappropriate as a state symbol.
There is now a choice of images.
|At today's prices and exchange rate, the average lobster|
costs about $A15.00 per kilo.
|This is the cost of lobster at the Sydney Fish Markets. And they don't even|
have front claws where the best meat is.
Lobsters used to be so plentiful that the local Native American's---okay, Indians---used to put them on their crops as fertiliser. And from the early 1600s when there were English fishing stations on the off-shore islands, it was cod, not lobster, that they were after. In early colonial days the lobsters were fed to the help because they were cheap. At one point servants in Boston rebelled and refused to eat lobster more than three days a week. It's a delicacy now but I can't imagine being forced to eat lobster all the time.
|A happy gathering...although maybe not so happy for the lobsters.|