Lobster Shoot Out in Maine

Dear patient readers,

I am currently in Maine. This would normally be a good thing (the house here on the island has great water views, for instance), except I am having to work full time while supposedly on a holiday with some family members. Thus all that has happened is that I have lost productivity (packing/travel time here, unavoidable dealing with family and having occasionally to drive my mother on errands. Since the nearest grocery store is 20 minutes away, any trip winds up chewing up at least to 2 hours).

I still have book deadlines (boy, did I not understand the process) and an additional frustration is that the copy edit, which I had thought would be useful (I have had good copy editors in the past) is proving to be a time sink and is not helping the book. There is a lot I could do on my own to improve the draft, but the drill is I have to respond to copy edits (once you officially submit the manuscript, you have to work off that draft, as revised). In this case, the copy editor has chosen to implement stylistic changes which third parties find in the vast majority of cases to make the text worse. So I am mainly undoing 80%-90% of the copy edits. You can imagine what this is doing to my frame of mind. And on top of that I have the high class problem of a client project.

This means I am still not doing as much on the blog as I would like to, which also has me cranky. There has been some good material lately, and I just do not have the bandwidth for a meaty post.

So this story about Maine sea rage (hat tip reader Jim K) seemed fitting. On my father’s side of the family, I come from old Yankee stock (no one important, but over here early, a lot of sea captains and cooks, and more recently lobstermen) so I understand how difficult sea men can be. Commercial fishing has the highest mortality rate of any profession (although lobstering is comparatively low risk) and is physically demanding with erratic payoff (even with a winch, there is a lot of lifting and hauling).

This year, the lobstermen are having a very bad year (I can’t recall prices being this low, inflation adjusted, ever) which will make any bad situation worse.

From Breitbart:

Lobster fishermen have feuded for generations over who can set traps, and where. To protect their fishing grounds, the lobstermen here [Matinicus Island] have been known to cut trap lines, circle their boats menacingly around unwelcome vessels and fire warning blasts from shotguns.

With lobster prices down, the animosity has been particularly shrill this summer.

On a July morning, it reached the boiling point when a longtime lobsterman and his daughter drew guns on two fellow islanders. The lobsterman fired, shooting a man he had known for decades in the neck, police reported.

The shooting has shone a spotlight on a long-standing territorial system all along the ragged Maine coast that gives fishermen unofficial rights to specified waters. The rights are legally unenforceable but important and usually accepted.

Nowhere are they more strictly enforced than around Matinicus Island, home to a fleet of three dozen lobster boats whose crews have a reputation for outlaw behavior….

Matinicus has a reason for feeling that it’s on its own. Slightly smaller than New York’s Central Park, the island is the farthest offshore of Maine’s 15 year-round island communities. It’s so isolated that the ferry only comes once a month in wintertime, when barely two dozen people live there. There are no restaurants or gas stations, and islanders fax their orders to a mainland grocery store…

But this summer saw a more serious incident….,

The story continues here.

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  1. christofay

    There was a similar news story or the same story in a recent NYTimes. I can sympathize with the tough lving of the lobstermen, but the Times wrote about an initiative to make lobster tracks hereditary. I can’t support that. To me it reads like another example of stratifying American society where a group on the lower rungs claims some public good for group use. A counter-example would be the oligarchy has delayed the establishment of the Cape Wine wind turbine project in Vineyard/Nantucket Sound, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

    Good luck with your work. I am looking forward to the book.

  2. Bruce Krasting

    Sounds like a wonderful VaCa. It could be worse. You could be a hundred miles south on Cape Cod. There the great white sharks have chased everyone off the beach. They are much scarier than lobsterman with guns.

  3. Gentlemutt

    This “little problem” in out-of-the-way Maine is not trivial, not for the people directly involved nor for steady visitors to this blog. Our literature is rich with references to “self-regulating fisheries,” ranging from pop evolutionists to economists to biologists to novelists (think Thom McGuane). Lots of people have given lots of thought to this matter.

    Property rights, regulation of markets, the tragedy of the commons, and the value of one’s labor are key issues here: solve, or at least resolve, things in a satisfactory way in a small fishery and maybe you also have a model that speaks to the absurd load of financial crap into which this country has sunk itself by following the leaders of the past three decades.

    Can’t do it, Mr. Greenspan? Then we’re sunk, no pun intended.

    Thanks for the Labor Day post Yves.

  4. DownSouth

    It sort of reminds one of Mexico City, where the informal merchants set up their business enterprises on the public right-of-way. Some of the exits and entrances to the subway are so cluttered with these vendors that foot traffic is restricted to one single, narrow column.

    To mediate disputes over space between merchants, as well as intervene on behalf of the informal merchants before the civil authorities, the merchants band together and elect “líderes,” which, given the extralegal nature of all this activity, can be seen as little more than petty mafiosas. And unlike Maine, shootings between competing líderes are not at all that uncommon. The practice of encroachment upon the public right-a-way has become so entrenched that the “rights” to a small 12′ x 12′ space in a good location can go for as much as $20,000 or $30,000.

    This is yet one more example of the anarchy that results when a libertarian’s wet dream comes true and a government doesn’t impose order or regulation.

    The good thing about Mexico is that the foray is more democratic than in the U.S. In the U.S., only the wealthy and the powerful are typically allowed to ravage the commons or the general welfare. In Mexico, anybody with a few thousand dollars can join in the plunder.

  5. Skippy

    Madness, gun play over what, lobsters. Now some one will go to jail rather than feed their family, with another human disabled.

    Firearms instill an aggressive attitude to those that use them. They kill more family and friends than all the murders in the US yoy. Going down to the shooting range or hunting will not prepare one for defense with them. I’ve seen so many act cavalier with them and can not stand being around people that allow their minds to be transformed by them. They suck the intelligence right out of people.

    SKippy…home of the free and land of the brave, HA…more lie scared shitless and paranoid, but thats the way FOX NEWS likes them.

    PS Hope the sunshine and sea breeze is a nice change from the big smoke Yves.

  6. Siggy

    Interesting piece.

    I find your recent blogs a bit better than earlier ones in that while there is less posted, the content is better presented. In some instances you might otherwise want to go a bit deeper than currently.

    I hope your book is a success, we need reasoned voices as we muddle thru this mess we’re in.

  7. bob

    Yankee property rights

    In the neighborhoods in boston, after a snowstorm, it is custom that a person who shovels a parking spot out owns that spot for as long as the snow is on the ground. This is signified by placing a garbage can, or chair, or something else in the spot when you are not in the parking spot.

    Moving a chair/garbage can out of a shoveled spot to “steal” the spot is simply not done, but there were rumors of the consequences.

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