Sunday, August 23, 2009

The balkanization of Maine's lobster territories

I'm heading to Bar Harbor, ME in two weeks for a few days of vacation, so as soon as I laid my eyes on a story about Maine's lobstermen, I was hooked.

In this Sunday's New York Times, Abby Goodnough covers the demand for a restricted zone where only full time residents of Matinicus Island, located in Knox County, Maine, can fish for lobsters. Given the drop in fishing stocks, prices and competition from abroad, tensions have been high in Maine among the lobster community. Matinicus residents (population 51 in 2000) derive their whole and entire living off of fishing for lobsters. With the influx of other mainlanders, they've witnessed the dramatic depletion of their fair share of lobster.

While I want to be sensitive to the struggle of the Matinicus residents who are fighting for their survival, I must admit that this concept of a restricted fishing zone may have far-reaching consequences that the state, I hope, is considering.

A restricted zone could lead to the balkanization of the state, requiring a dramatic increase in patrols to enforce the zones, which doesn't come cheap.

One day an innocent newcomer to Matinicus will relocate to this area to fish lobsters from its surrounding waters. What will the locals have to say about that? Could he fish? Has he lived there long enough? What is long enough?

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