Date of Award
Master of Arts in Marine Affairs
Melva Treviño Peña
The Maine lobster industry is not only the most valuable local export, but also a part of the state’s culture and identity. Lobster fisheries in Maine are currently facing a number of struggles. These include environmental issues like climate change and warming water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine. These changes are leading to the movement of the lobster population, which in turn is changing how the lobster industry functions. There are also policy changes being proposed right now that could have serious implications for the lobster fishery. Notably, these include new offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine and proposed regulations on fishing gear to protect North Atlantic right whales. Environmental change will continue to push fisheries into new ways of functioning. In the lobster fishery, many people have noticed these changes and have started to engage in adaptive processes. This research investigated how lobster fishers in Midcoast Maine perceive environmental change, and sought to identify the strategies they are adapting as a response to perceived and observed changes in the lobster fishery.
This study employed ethnographic and anthropological methods to better understand the community adaptation implication of changes in the Maine lobster fishery. In order to understand how far-reaching the implications of environmental change will be on small communities like those of coastal Maine, researchers must be willing to not only study the natural environment, but also listen to local experts. Interviews were conducted via telephone and computer conference interviews with individuals with key connections to the lobster fishing industry, whether that be economically, socially, or academically. The goal of this work was to use a series of interviews to understand the social and cultural importance of lobster fishing to small communities in Midcoast Maine, and to understand how changes in that fishery are changing the community. With the local knowledge of these participants and a community focused study, researchers can develop a more holistic understanding of the meaning of the lobster fishery in Maine. This research found that many communities in Maine are aware of these changes, and are willing to fight to keep the lobster industry and local culture alive. People are deeply connected to the lobster industry through the natural environment and their social environment. This research found that these communities who typically prefer to work with the same tools for generations are changing and adapting in an attempt to preserve their way of life.
Nash, Melanie, "SOCIO-CULTURAL CHANGES IN NEW ENGLAND LOBSTER FISHERIES: POLICY, PERSPECTIVE, AND COMMUNITY IN MIDCOAST MAINE" (2021). Open Access Master's Theses. Paper 1996.