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New Fishing Business Revives Old Way of Life

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
03 August 2010, 12:08 PM
Port Clyde Fishermen Use Sustainable Methods, Cut out the Middlemen
Glen Libby

In a small, nondescript building, local Port Clyde, Maine fishermen are bringing back a way of life that disappeared when overfishing depleted groundfish stocks. Now, by using more sustainable fishing methods and cutting out the middlemen -- local fishermen are once more supplying fish to their own community.

"We've created a lot of jobs and there's potential to create more," said fisherman and co-op president Glen Libby. "There's a lot of demand for seafood."

With competition from bigger fisheries and stricter federal regulations monitoring the amount of fish that are caught, Libby said he and other fishermen talked about the idea of forging their own fish co-op using sustainable fishing methods—ensuring that fishermen never exceed fish quota but also attracting customers.

The idea was hatched in January 2007 and came to fruition in 2009, beginning with Community Supported Fisheries. Much like the Community Supported Farm model, customers pay a certain amount per week and enjoy an assortment of fresh fish weekly. With Port Clyde fishermen processing and selling their own fish, they are making money while keeping more fish in the ocean.

"Right from the start the fishermen have been making more money," Libby said. Last year, 75 percent of the market came from the Community Supported Fisheries delivery service. Now, Port Clyde Fresh Catch has taken off and includes restaurant and farmer's market sales as well as online at

The  enmity between local fisheries and industrial fisheries runs deep. In 2007 Earthjustice filed a petition representing the Midcoast Fishermen's Association (Glen Libby is chairman), aiming to restrict big industrial trawl ships from areas of the ocean where groundfish populations are scarce. Libby and other Port Clyde fishermen for years relied on groundfish - including cod, haddock, flounder and sole—as the main part of their catch but now must focus their fishing on lobster, shrimp and other seafood.

Last week, a federal magistrate judge ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service to revisit this issue and, hopefully, restrict the big industrial ships from these vulnerable areas. As he waits for these groundfish populations to grow, Libby spends most of his time off a fishing boat and managing operations at Port Clyde Fresh Catch. Libby says it's too early to tell if the business is sustainable.

"It's hard, we're still learning how to be economical enough for the operations and competitive enough with the price," he said. But so far, the local fishing operation has plenty of fans—from fishermen to local residents.

"I'm so impressed with what they're trying to do," said Betsy Dunn, innkeeper of the Seaside Inn. The Seaside Inn is one of many local operations that buy fish from the co-op.

Nathaniel Winchenbach, 30, is processing manager at the Port Clyde Fresh Catch plant, which means he oversees the filleting and packaging of the fish that comes into the plant. Winchenbach started working on his dad's fishing boat when he was 7, and spent his college summers back on the boat.

Soon, he bought his own lobster boat but sold it after 10 years because it was hard to make a living. He came to the co-op in March 2009 to make some extra money to buy his girlfriend an engagement ring. He's now been with the co-op for more than a year and doesn't miss all that time on the boat.

"This feels like the old way of life coming back," Winchenbach said, adding that years ago there used to be local seafood plants all up and down the coast. "This company is sort of the pioneer. It's cool to be part of the whole thing here, getting back to the old way of life. I'm hoping we can regain that."

Great news for the fishing community of Port Clyde. Often, if we give natural resources conservation a fair chance it becomes a "win win" situation! There are also sport's hunting communities that have become great conservation groups; Ducks Unlimited, etc. What I have found here in California is that it's often the related special interest groups like the companies that manufacture monofilment fishing line that are the "bad actors" in conservation. They plow money into opposing our marine sanctuaries. When the fishing community opposes conservation of our fisheries they depend on-- then they are often opposing their own interests.

Port Clyde is a fishing village south of Thomaston, Maine which is on the coastal hiway. It is one of the jumping off points for Monhegan Island. From the yahoo search engine:

Monhegan Commons — Monhegan Commons is a search for the essence ...
Monhegan Commons is a forum for all those who love Monhegan Island, Maine, her art, nature, birds, people and history.

Welcome to Monhegan!
Monhegan is a small, rocky Island ten miles from the nearest mainland and scarcely a square ... areas and over rocky ledges up to the highest ocean cliffs on the Maine ...

The Island Inn, Monhegan Island, Maine | Home
Island Inn Monhegan - Historic ocean/sunset view Bed & Breakfast enjoy nature trails, hiking, bird watching, artists in midcoast Maine, New England.

Monhegan, Maine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Monhegan is a plantation on an island of the same name in Lincoln County, Maine, United States, about 12 nautical miles (22 km) off the coast. The population was 75 at the 2000 census....,_Maine

Monhegan Island, Maine
Monhegan Island, Maine. A well known island located about 10 miles off Mid Coast Maine. Known for its rugged beauty, beautiful vistas and as a place where artists come ...

Monhegan Boat Line, Monhegan Island, Maine and Port Clyde
Port Clyde (St. George). Offers charters and ferry service to Monhegan, as well as tours along the St. George River into Thomaston.

Let's hope that a stop will be put to the trawling. I thought that it had been brought under some control, but apparently not. I watched one trawler sweep up all the fish in the area in front of my house in Georgetown, a good bit below Port Clyde, in Maine. It destroyed our fishing except for lobster and shrimp. One no longer sees the porpoises. That was about fifteen or more years ago and there has been little restoration. Bravo Fort Clyde!

Port Clyde is WHERE? WHAT coast? Interesting article about fishers taking back control of "their" waters, but lacking the basic nugget of LOCATION!

First paragraph of story says Maine...:)

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