Gulf of Maine: A Future for Homegrown Fish?

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Published on July 23rd, 2009  |  Discuss This Article  


It feels like the rain might never let up in New England this summer, and my garden is drowning.

Depressing, sure. But luckily, the garden’s yield isn’t my sole source of food or income. If my garden fails, or I don’t feel like digging in the soggy soil, I can buy fresh food at the farmer’s market.

But for fishermen like Glen Libby, giving up is not an option. To make a living — and feed all of us who enjoy eating local fish — they ply the Gulf of Maine’s swirling waters for groundfish like cod, haddock and flounder (you’ve seen Deadliest Catch, haven’t you?).

These days, however, there are far fewer fish to catch, and fishermen have to steam further out to sea to catch them.

Since near collapse in the early 1990s, many Gulf of Maine groundfish stocks just can’t seem to rebound — and the same holds true for many small-scale fishermen.

Can we bring back the fish? It’s not an easy question to answer. We know far less about the fields, meadows and gardens below the water’s surface than we do of their terra firma counterparts.

Recently, The Nature Conservancy, along with Maine-based partners the Island Institute, Penobscot East Resource Center and a group of gutsy fishermen, launched a project to change that.

The plan? The organizations will buy fishing permits and the fishing access that comes with them to give fishermen the chance to test sustainable practices — and conservationists the chance to tap their knowledge of the sea.

See a video of the fishermen (above) and learn more about the project.

Kate Frazer is a senior conservation writer with The Nature Conservancy based in Massachusetts.

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