MA - 'We Have No Market, but Lots of Lobsters': A Maine Lobsterwoman Fights for Her Livelihood
The fishery is buffeted by the climate crisis and other problems but the coronavirus pandemic has opened a new front.
“If I’m not fishing, I’m working on gear or my boat. Or meetings involving fishing. It’s what I eat, sleep and breathe,” lobsterwoman Julie Eaton tells me.
Eaton lives on Deer Isle, and fishes Penobscot Bay – a deep blue inlet of the Gulf of Maine, dotted by working waterfronts, rocky islands, wooden schooners and lobster buoys. I ask her what it’s like to start lobster season.
“How do I even begin to tell you what it feels like?” she says, sighing. “It feels like I’ve held my breath all winter. Finally, when I turn the key to my boat and I’m going across the bay, my lungs fill with air for the first time in months. All of a sudden I feel alive. The freedom! The independence. The beauty. It’s almost spiritual, the connection I have with the sea.”
The connection between Maine lobstermen and the sea is legendary. In 1954, the beloved author EB White wrote and narrated a short film set on the same island Julie calls home. A Maine Lobsterman features Gene Eaton – a likely relative of Julie’s husband – on his boat Nor Wester. Gene began his day at dawn, as Julie soon will.
Lobstering has never been an easy vocation. It is, as White said 50 years ago, for men who don’t mind wet feet. Men who can navigate a rocky shoreline with a faulty compass in brutal weather.