|Summertime at Popham Beach|
|A lone lobster trap on the beach in early April|
|A modern day image of lobster fishery on Monhegan Island|
|A collage of buoys and flowers on the dock in Bath|
|Lobster buoys adorn Seguin Island's old wooden trolley track|
History books tell us that Maine’s lobster fishery was endangered by the rise of the canning industry from 1840 to 1880; however, conservationists responded with guidelines to preserve the population. The first lobster pound appeared on Vinalhaven in 1875, and many others followed. These pounds became the genesis of Maine's modern harvesting practice. As the canning industry collapsed, the fresh lobster industry grew. In other words, Mainers realized there was a need for conservation to save planet Earth almost one hundred years before it became a global mission! Today, harvesting lobster is a highly regulated business, but residents who enjoy fishing as a pastime can obtain a license to catch a few lobsters if they can!
Maine lobstermen probably harvest and sell more lobsters than anyone else in the world. Brooks Trap Mill, a family owned and operated business since 1946, is the largest manufacturer of lobster traps in the state. According to an article in the Bangor Daily News (2013), former Senator Olympia Snowe recognized this stellar company for its invaluable contribution to Maine maritime history with an official notation in the congressional record in 2012. Before Michael Ojala, a Finnish immigrant, opened his first business, a sawmill on Rockland’s waterfront, he decided to Americanize his name by changing it to Brooks. In Finnish, “ojala” means a fast flowing brook, so Brooks was a good translation and a positive choice. Ironically, in Spanish “ojalá” means “I hope” or, more traditionally, “God grant.” Okay, I am a Spanish teacher, and as fate and Bath would have it, I also have a little Finnish blood in me on my paternal grandmother’s side. I have digressed, but in addition to highlighting the Finnish connection, I have to recognize God’s grace in Maine’s lobster fishery and Michael Brooks’ success story. In 1949, with the help of his sons, Michael moved his sawmill closer to his family’s home in Thomaston. Despite a few setbacks, Brooks Trap Mill expanded from sawing trap stock to making wooden traps and later, in the 1980’s, wire traps. In fact, under the direction of Karl Brooks, Michael’s son, the company custom-designed wire cutting machines that enabled it to produce high quality traps quickly. Almost 70 years later, Karl’s three children, Mark, Julie and Stephen, now own and operate three warehouses and four retail locations, including Portland Trap, Brooks Marine Supply (West Bath), Downeast Trap (Jonesboro), and Brooks Trap Mill. From Nova Scotia to Connecticut, Brooks’ traps are catching lobsters. Even though I am not a commercial lobsterman, I would like to visit the Brooks’ store in West Bath to walk among the giants of the industry!
|The spectacular view from behind Five Islands Lobster Co.|
When day is done, I have come to realize that the only difference between my seventeen year-old students and me is forty years! Everything changes and everything remains the same. When May turns to June, it's time to go out and play.
The teacher has left the building! She is probably out doing the lobster stroll!