The coast of Maine is defined by the ocean. It is a source of life, an essential resource, and vital to the communities where we live and work. At the Island Institute, we’re proud to collaborate with leaders across the coast to build resiliency and create opportunities that help to ensure our marine economies remain vibrant. “The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods” is the theme for World Oceans Day 2021, so we and our partners at Luke’s Lobster asked members of our community whose livelihoods depend on the ocean to share a little bit about their work, their connection to the sea, and the ways they’re working to create a more sustainable coast.
Jodi Brewer and Alex Hutchins
Morning Star Fisheries and Aquaculture
“Yes, on paper it’s our farm, but it’s really the fishermen’s farm.” – Jodi Brewer
Jodi Brewer and Alex Hutchins own and operate Morning Star Fisheries and grow and harvest kelp in the clean, cold waters of the Gulf of Maine off Southport Island. Fishing is a family tradition for the pair. Having both grown up in fishing families, they have been working on the water since they were young—Alex started lobstering at age eight. When the shrimp fishery closed in the Gulf of Maine in 2013, Alex and Jodi looked for other ways to diversify their business and continue to make a living on the water.
That’s when kelp came into focus. The time to seed and harvest kelp squared perfectly with downtime in Alex’s fishing schedule, so after an extensive amount of research that included participating in the Island Institute’s former Aquaculture Business Development program, they established a kelp farm of their own. One of the unique and amazing things about kelp aquaculture are the ways that it benefits the environment. The two are currently working with the University of Fairbanks to better understand the positive impact of their farm.
“I really enjoy the low impact,” said Jodi. “It actually helps the environment to grow our product. It does not use any kind of chemicals. We’re doing research with the University of Fairbanks to see how much the kelp will improve the water quality surrounding the farm.”
In addition to the good it can do for our oceans, kelp farming also provides an additional income stream, for the pair and the fishermen they hire, in the lobstering off-season.
“We really wanted our farm to include the local fishermen because we don’t have as many year-round fisheries as we used to,” shared Jodi. “So what we have done in our business model and our entire business plan, is incorporate hiring our local fishermen to help seed and harvest the farm.”
She added, “For me, that is a benefit. Employing local fishermen during a time of year when they don’t really have a whole lot going on…It was important to include them in it. Yes, on paper it’s our farm, but it’s really the fishermen’s farm.”
“I think the biggest thing for us is the positive environmental impact from the farm and the economic impact,” said Alex. “In our area of fishing, there is not a whole lot of money coming in in the Spring. We’ll start harvesting in April and then we’re done by May or mid-May, which timing wise is great for myself and the other lobstermen that I hire. It’s a quick influx of cash for them to get started in the spring, get their traps set, and feel good about what they’re doing.”
Vice President of E-Commerce + Retail and former Culinary Director at Luke’s Lobster
“The very core of our business is to buy and sell sustainably sourced seafood from fishermen and local co-ops we know and trust.” – Lauren Gibson
Lauren Gibson, vice president of e-commerce + retail and former culinary director at Luke’s Lobster, knows what it means to rely on the abundance of the ocean for her work. “The very core of our business is to buy and sell sustainably sourced seafood from fishermen and local co-ops we know and trust. But that really is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Luke’s has been sourcing and processing lobster and crab from along the Northeast coast for more than a decade. And believe it or not, we can taste the difference. “The Gold Standard Lobster and Crab committee at Luke’s is made up of teammates from across our business that meet to conduct blind taste tests on our products. We have been able to taste differences in lobster and crab based on time of year, location, water temperature, and more,” according to Gibson. In addition to ensuring consistent quality for all products, Luke’s has created multiple different products to ensure no part of the crustaceans are going to waste. “It’s important to us that we utilize every part of the lobster, so we’ve created new products and innovative ways to limit, if not eliminate, waste. The whole tails that remained after picking the knuckle and claw meat are now packaged for consumers and sent to Whole Foods, we created a delicious lobster cake using lobster mince byproduct that is also available at Whole Foods, and more recently we began crushing and drying our lobster shell and making it into an all-natural plant food which not only eliminates waste but adds value back into the lobster supply chain.”
In addition to our staple lobster products, Luke’s has partnered with the Island Institute to introduce six new species to our online market, all of which are tightly regulated and monitored, and many of which are also underutilized. “Overfishing is a problem we recognize is harmful to both the ocean and the species itself, so we want to use our platform to educate consumers on what species are best to buy and provide people with easy access to safe, sustainable seafood,” says Gibson.
Third-generation lobsterwoman and owner of Aphrodite Oysters
“…I literally pour my heart and soul into my work, not only because I love what I do, but because I believe in it!” – Krista Tripp
Krista was raised working on the ocean and playing on its shores on an island off the coast of Maine. In addition to running a lobstering business, she also owns and operates Aphrodite Oysters on the Weskeag River in midcoast Maine. As someone who makes her living from the sea and believes in creating a sustainable future for the next generation, we asked Krista what this day means to her.
“World Oceans Day means so many things to me! I love this day, because it is a day to reminisce on how important our oceans are by providing us with healthy, rich, bountiful seafood for the world to enjoy…Most importantly, World Oceans Day is a reminder to all seafarers, working waterfront people, and ocean lovers to do their part in protecting and ensuring healthy oceans for future generations!”
When we asked Krista what she liked most about her job, she had a lot to share. From having an office view of Maine’s beautiful coastline, seeing the sunrise and sunset daily, working with other dedicated folks in the fishing community, running her own business, and providing people with high-quality and delicious Maine seafood, it is clear that she loves her job.
“I really take a lot of pride in providing a high-quality seafood product to all lobster and oyster lovers, and I am always full of gratitude when I hear back from our customers about how wonderful a product we provided is!”
Krista’s dedication to a healthy marine environment has been shaped by her reliance on this critical resource as a lobsterwoman and oyster farmer. Its preservation is a value that she carries with her, both in her businesses and in her life.
“I think about future generations often, especially now that I have a little one on the way…I have always been an advocate for clean oceans. My family raised me this way because they too have relied on the ocean to make a living. I am a third-generation lobsterwoman, so I see the importance of keeping our oceans healthy and clean!”
Lobsterman out of the Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-op
It’s part of my identity. Of course, the ocean is my way of supporting my family, but it also runs in my veins, I feel called to it.”
– Sam Hyler
Lobstermen and other fishermen have a connection to the ocean unlike many others. They not only rely on it for their livelihoods, they are also passionate about protecting it for future generations to come. Sam Hyler, a lobsterman out of the Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-op, says his connection to the ocean runs deep. “It’s part of my identity. Of course, the ocean is my way of supporting my family, but it also runs in my veins, I feel called to it.”
Sam says when he is off the water for a number of days he can feel it in his body. “The Gulf of Maine and our oceans are extremely important to my family’s livelihoods but also extremely important to my mental well-being. When I leave the harbor in the morning I feel a sense of freedom that I don’t get anywhere else but on the ocean.” While fishing the Gulf of Maine, Sam has seen changes in weather and temperature but he remains hopeful and steadfast that the future of lobster fishery and the Gulf of Maine is bright as long as we all continue to be “good stewards” to the oceans. “Whether you’re walking on the beach or going on a boat ride, leave no trace.”
This World Oceans Day, we’re celebrating stewards like Sam who works hard to bring sustainable, high-quality Maine seafood to market, and innovators like Krista who are helping to keep our oceans clean and growing tasty and sustainable shellfish. We’re cheering on changemakers like Lauren who work to educate and make knowledge about sustainable seafood available to consumers, and applauding trailblazers like Alex and Jodi who are creating opportunities for fishermen whose livelihoods depend on the sea. These leaders in the marine economy are making a difference for the oceans and the communities that depend on them.
Find out more about World Oceans Day here.
Building on a longstanding collaboration focused on strengthening Maine’s coastal economies, the Island Institute and Luke’s Lobster have created a for-profit/nonprofit partnership to energize Maine’s marine economy, build resilient supply chains for sustainable seafood, and provide opportunities for fishermen and aquaculturists. In addition to its economic impacts, the joint endeavor will include social and environmental objectives focused on clean energy and water quality improvement projects for fishing wharves, B Corp training and support for businesses considering certification, and assessment of and climate pilot projects leading to the decarbonization of the seafood supply chain. To learn more, click here.
(Featured Image by Chris Carey Courtesy of Luke’s Lobster)