An installment in the “Food Voices” series focusing on environmental changes in the ocean.
WhyHunger is pleased to be partnering with Andrianna Natsoulas, longtime food sovereignty activist and author of the forthcoming book Food Voices: Stories of the Food Sovereignty Movement. In 2010, Andrianna began a journey across the Americas to capture the stories of people working towards and living a just and sustainable food system. As she continues her journey, spanning from Nova Scotia to Ecuador to Brazil and beyond, we will feature highlights of the stories she gathers.
Gary Libby is a fisherman from Port Clyde, Maine. He fishes on the fishing vessel LeslyandJessica. He fishes for groundfish (ie: cod, haddock, flounders) and shrimp. He also lobsters on his boat, The Miss Kim. Over the past thirty years, he has seen many changes in the oceans and he believes it has more to do with pollution than is recognized.
Fish stocks have been in hard shape. I think there are some other things happening. Human interactions, pollution. Stuff that changed the levels of ph in the water in the Gulf of Maine. I took a Marine Educational Resources Program class. They train you on how management and science works. On the science part of it, a really interesting speaker came. He worked for the University of Maine up at Orono. He was a marine scientist. He was saying how the Gulf of Maine has changed and ph levels are much higher in the Gulf of Maine than they used to be. And that would be from air pollution, just like in the river and streams. The thing about that, though, is in the Gulf of Maine, high ph levels enable crustaceans to do real well — like lobsters and shrimp and crab, which are all doing really well. It’s not so good for finfish, though. So the finfish seem to be moving farther and farther out, I think to get away from the ph levels. That’s my opinion of it.
What we are seeing is a change in the water quality. I know the ph levels must be high if that was true what that scientist was telling us. We see shrimp. We are having more shrimp than we have seen in a long time. And lobster landings keep setting records. We are catching crabs as bycatch. Port Clyde Fresh Catch1 is doing crabs because of it. We’re actually catching some tanner crabs, which is like a snow crab. We catch those in the Gulf of Maine. My brother was telling me a story about being at farmers market and some folks stopped by asking, “Why you got Alaskan crab here?” And it wasn’t Alaskan crab —it was one that me and my nephew caught and we brought in. Giant tanners. All that stuff is changing in the Gulf of Maine. I think that is part of our problem. I know it’s not overfishing in our area. There is no one left.
“I think the [new management] system will work and I think it will help rebuild fish and keep us within sustainable levels. If that happens, and fish stocks still decline, we are going to know that something else is going on. I think they are going to discover that it’s not fishermen overfishing the stock. It’s going to be the interactions with humans, the ph, the pollution. It might be just a bunch of fishermen trying to point the finger someplace else, but I think there is something to it.
1 Port Clyde Fresh Catch is a community supported fisheries program out of Port Clyde, Maine. For more information: www.portclydefreshcatch.com.
Photos by Kim Libby