top of page


Ted Ames fished in the Gulf of Maine for many species of sealife, including groundfish, scallops, shrimp, and lobster. In 2005, he was one of 25 recipients of a so-called “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, due to his work mapping cod spawning areas in the Gulf of Maine by analyzing historical fishing grounds and interviewing fisherman aged 61 - 94.

Robin Alden spent her entire professional career connecting fishermen and decision-makers in the scientific and policy communities. In 1976 she co-founded the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, and was also the publisher and editor of Commercial Fisheries News for 20 years. Robin was the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources under Governor Angus King, where she led the development of changes to Maine’s lobstering laws. In 2003, Robin co-founded the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries in 2003 and served as Executive Director until 2018.

Interview Transcript

Lucas Richman (00:00:00):

Robin and Ted, thank you so much for meeting me today here at the main center for coastal fisheries, uh, which is an organization that I understand you founded. How did that come about?

Robin Alden (00:00:11):

So it grew out of, um, actually a small group of fishermen and their wives here in town called stoning fisheries Alliance. And can I have both been involved in fisheries, in a myriad different roles and, um, uh, so fishermen and their wives got together to try to figure out how could we do something constructive for fisheries in the future. Um, given that we'd lost our Cod haddock Pollack, hake fishery, uh, groundfish fishery. And, um, we're really dependent only on lobster now. And so after a few years of, of being a community group, it became clear that we could be much more effective if we had staff could translate our ideas into science would, um, uh, and could just work on these problems, um, in a, in a staffed way. So a smaller group of us, Ted Hoskins, who was a pastor, um, in Blue Hill and Ted and I pulled together a small board. And, um, and then now we have this wonderful building and it's, I've been able to transition to the next executive director. 

Lucas Richman (00:01:36):

Congratulations. Yeah,

Ted Ames (00:01:39):

It's been a great transition. Um, it really, it really did come out from, uh, fishermen and their wives in this community. Uh, I'd fish for many years and retired, uh, and, uh, the kids or the people I fished with, uh, needed someone to, uh, they were being confronted with a habit Papa's issue and they needed someone to present, uh, to write papers for them and present their ideas. When you're fishing, you have to, if you go to a meeting you've lost two days of work, maybe three, right? So it was really, uh, a need anyway, that evolved into, uh, the collapse of groundfish throughout new England. And, uh,When the dust started settling, these guys were, uh, out of business as quick as that. And there was a lot of angst in the town because this town traditionally landed between two and 7 million pounds of fish a season.

Lucas Richman (00:02:53):

And that went down to…

Ted Ames (00:02:54):


Lucas RichmanL Oh my gosh. 

Ted Ames: 

And there were a lot of unhappy people, so we've banded together and, uh, addressed what we could. Um, we nearly lost access rights to the shrimp business. I can remember going with a couple of my old fishing cronies and by the skin of our teeth, we persuaded, uh, the state government to continue allowing, uh, those of us in Eastern Maine to fish. Uh, we, uh, we came out of that, realizing that, uh, this sort of thing was going to happen over and over because, uh, that's the way fisheries management runs. And if we didn't have an organization that would, uh, have the infrastructure ready to get the information out and organize people and so on, uh, then this was going to be history around here. So we did, and that was the Stonington Fisheries Alliance that Robin talked about and, uh, it just kept evolving. And then we wanted to involve researchers, uh, with what fishermen were seeing. And so we established, uh, I did our best efforts to establish connections to the fishing community and with the state university and other researchers who might be interested and all in all this, it went pretty well I think.

Robin Alden (00:04:38):

So the, the, the interesting thing about fishing is that it's, um, the ocean is a common property resource. And so in order to use it sustainably, you have to develop governance that works. And in human society, that's always a push-pull. An, there were things happening in Eastern Maine and the marine environment that weren't being recognized by the regional authorities who were looking at a different scale. And we recognized eventually that there really is a (con). It's not enough to just be an activist, it's not enough just to be a scientist. It's not enough. And even the very process of having fishermen speak effectively on their own behalf, sometimes it takes setup. And so this organization evolved all of those things from, from a high school program that teaches regular high school skills through, um, through regular fishing questions to, and, and along the way, develops kids' ability to speak and be stewards. And, um, and then, you know, uh,

Ted Ames (00:06:04):

Out of how to interact in a meeting with regulators and or scientists, and

Lucas Richman (00:06:14):

To be able to speak publicly and advocate for

Robin Alden (00:06:17):

Behalf of the, and to understand the context that this regulation is taking place in, because if you're just leaving the dock in the morning and coming back, you don't, you don't see the picture of what those regulators are required by law to do, or what the system is that you're working in. I was commissioner for Marine resources in Maine, um, in the mid nineties, in the first king administration, I'd seen that regulatory process from the other side as well.

Ted Ames (00:06:53):

So one of the things that helps address this whole issue of how the fishermen interact with the real world, and that is, uh, Ted Hoskins, who, uh, co formed this organization with us, uh, develop this idea for introducing stewardship as a cornerstone that we could, uh, that we could help people develop a, essentially a code of ethics that was appropriate for the industry. And it started with, uh, selected individuals from different fishing communities going to a two or three day meeting. And, uh, the first question first, first question was, uh, what's wrong with fisheries. Of course, everybody dumps on management first, and then they spend a couple hours dumping on each other, uh, or on the state and, and each other. And finally, as the dust settles and everybody as a claim that tariff, so to speak, the question was, what do you want out of this, uh, quick buck and, and, uh, go and get yourself a restaurant or a gas station and live happily ever after are all, no, no, we want this for our family, our grandchildren,

Lucas Richman (00:08:24):

Uh, and there is such a traditional line

Ted Ames (00:08:28):

For generations. And, uh, then once they've reached that point, then they're receptive to modifications in what they do, uh, that will improve the fishery and it's worked and it continues. I'm delighted,

Robin Alden (00:08:50):

Sort of became a technique that the organization uses for their meetings with clam diggers or harvesters or whatever, whoever they're meeting.

Lucas Richman (00:09:00):

Uh, could you speak to, uh, I I'm, I'm originally from Los Angeles. So, uh, and growing up in a very urban community, um, uh, very, very different life. And I cannot imagine, wow, first of all, the devastation of losing an industry like that, uh, with, with, with that kind of, uh, w millions of pounds of fish suddenly not being available. Um, and so first of all, um, how did that happen? And, um, and, uh, well, let's start there. You asked him the

Robin Alden (00:09:40):

Right question,

Ted Ames (00:09:42):

Push my button. How many hours? Well, number one, what saved this community and nearly every other fishing community on the coast is that coastal Maine fishermen have never functioned in just one fishery. They were small, medium-sized both said fish groundfish and seasoned losses and seasoned scallops shrimp. Everybody was doing one thing or another. We always had clam digging his employer of last resort. And all you needed to do is get a license and we all did. And had a,

Lucas Richman (00:10:26):

And you come from a line of fishermen, is that, is that reasonable through,

Ted Ames (00:10:30):

Uh, probably an understatement. Yes. As a matter of fact, and, uh, uh, it, uh, there got to be that the technology coming into the fishery changed it. You didn't have to know as much as, uh, with, with modern, modern navigation tools and, uh, sophisticated radars and, and sounding machines and GPS, uh, as a friend of mine,

Robin Alden (00:11:03):

I'm going to ask you to picture the ocean. Yes. You probably see it as a nice flat thing with waves on it - no simple thing. And down below there's stuff, there's fish, there's lobsters, rocks, whatever. But in fact, what is underneath is not, oh, there's fish here and there's whatever it's places there's canyons there, hilltops, there are sharp edges, there are muddy bottoms. There are, and those are all real places that if it wasn't a drowned shelf, would be land that you built houses 

Lucase Richman: It’s specific environments, 

Robin Aldent: Very specific  environments. And, um, fishermen have traditionally have a picture in their head that they gradually piece together over their lifetime. And so now we can get,

Lucas Richman (00:12:04):

So they have the fishermen who are on the water, have a sensitivity to these nooks and crannies, um, on the ocean shelf and, and, and, and being aware of, of the due-on-sale is of what's happening between the tide and, and, and, uh, the time of day and, and, and, uh, the weather and everything, and what is going to be available and, and, uh, and how all the different species are interacting.

Ted Ames (00:12:28):

Yeah. You know, what's in your backyard when and where everything is at, and this is a fishermen's back, right. And he gets to know a great deal about the ecology of the area he fishes in. He may not know squat about the rest of it, but he's very, very acutely attuned to what's happening, right. Uh, in the area he fishes and, uh, what's happened is with these new tools, we've, overfished one species after another. Nobody has figured out before, uh, every kid, nearly every kid in town would say, I'm going to be a fishermen. And they would go fishing for a year, sometimes two or three, and then 80% of them would go ashore and find a job because they didn't have the mix of skills that allowed them to do it. Uh, but with these devices, uh, practically any good functional person who likes to work hard, could do very well in fishing right now. Uh, but the only fishery that we have that has a major Fisher, right, that has a management system that allows, uh, fishermen to go and do their thing without destroying it. It's the loss of fish is done. Everything you can conceive of to accommodate the ecological needs of that species while trying to avoid interference or interaction with others. And they're pretty successful.

Lucas Richman (00:14:14):

And I understand that there is a real code, uh, a lobsterman code of, of, uh, not over harvesting. And then

Robin Alden (00:14:26):

They throw back small Wednesday. Yes,

Lucas Richman (00:14:29):

Yes. And that the cages themselves are not created to just maximize take, but in fact, there's, uh, so that escape, escape. Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Ted Ames (00:14:40):

Feeding stations, shelter. Right. Um, you name it. I can't think it's the closest thing to public aquaculture that I know of. The only difference is, is it comes with a requisite that you have to be a steward. If you're caught transgressing, you might get a fine the first time around. And one that if you are caught again in the next year or two, you may lose your license for a couple of years in that fishery and so on. So in contrast to salmon culture or these other aquaculture systems, we have a system designed to work with the ecosystem, grazing it, if you will, instead of cleaning it out and moving on, it's really good. It's a, it's a nice setup

Lucas Richman (00:15:34):

Now and understand that

Robin Alden (00:15:36):

I'm going to tie it to climate change too. Since you're thinking about the warming of the ocean, then what the, um, this regulatory system that deals with all of these important ecological parameters, babies, mothers advocate, um, has done is it's allowed the lobster to be resilient. So right now it's been able to respond to the favorable changes, which is have come from the warming ocean, um, in the long run. It also ought to help it not stay at the current levels, which it won't do, but, um, be resilient as a species because those, um, basic, um, uh, life stage, uh, stages in the lobster are protected and that's not true in every fishing

Lucas Richman (00:16:29):

And that, so the fishery is I understand, um, this, the center is, is about adapting to the changes in climate. Um, uh, and, and not necessarily, I mean, uh, yeah,

Robin Alden (00:16:44):

You can't hold it off right by

Lucas Richman (00:16:46):

Ourselves. Right, right. Um, now you mentioned regulations. Um, and there's something that I, I just heard about that kind of, um, can you tell me about the, the, I guess there are rights to, uh, fish and, or is it, is that correct? Well,

Ted Ames (00:17:07):

Um, in, in federal fisheries, federal fisheries. Okay. So they've turned it into a privatized industry. Okay.

Lucas Richman (00:17:17):

First of all, what's the difference between the federal fishery and a state fishery

Robin Alden (00:17:21):

Inside and outside three miles to be

Lucas Richman (00:17:23):

Some inside and outside

Robin Alden (00:17:25):

Three miles, the state regulates outside three miles, the federal government.

Lucas Richman (00:17:30):

So the fishery officiary would be more ocean bound is that ER, or,

Ted Ames (00:17:36):

Um, you know, if you have a state loves their license, you can put traps from here to three miles off to the three mile limit. If you have a federal permit, you can set along with your state license, you can set traps from, to George's bank

Robin Alden (00:17:52):

Or to another line,

Ted Ames (00:17:53):

This incredibly productive fishery, uh, that we have, the majority of people are inside three miles. This is a coastal fishery. If you look historically, so was the groundfish industry and the herring industry and the scallop industry, we've simply trashed everything else because we didn't have a comparable system for managing it that we've evolved in lobster.

Lucas Richman (00:18:23):

So how is it possible to what, what set up the situation that they created the issue and how, how,

Robin Alden (00:18:34):

And we fix it. So, um, federal management is done, um, based on a very rigorous law called the sustainable fisheries act, the sustainable fisheries act. And that was originally the 200 mile limit law that passed in the mid seventies. And that's the one that gave authority to the U S to manage outside of three miles, right. That at 12. So, um, so there are a whole set of, of scientific, uh, requirements. Most of them based on theory that was obsolete in the seventies, it's still going on. And, um, and so any, uh, any fisheries regulation, there's a negotiation then, uh, an, a balancing between state rules, state authority, and federal authority and state rules, federal authority, and it's different in every, in every fishermen. What, um, in the federal management, they've mostly gone to this privatization model, which has a basic idea that you count how many fish there are. You may have already gotten this from Carla. You count how many fish there are in a given area, big area, let's say from Cape Cod to Canada,

Ted Ames (00:20:03):

Let's say 35,000 square miles. Let's put it into the absurdity ring.

Robin Alden (00:20:09):

Okay. So you count the fish and you give everybody, and you say, we can catch X amount given that there's this many. And then we'll give everyone a share based on how much they caught in the past. So the biggest guy gets the most and the littlest guy gets a little less than those who didn't happen to be fishing during those three years, don't get any. So, um, first of all, you can see the vulnerability for a Maine fishermen who is adaptable and fishes, different fisheries, but, um, second of all, there's the falling that by looking at, by counting and figuring out on average, there's X number of Cod fish in

Ted Ames (00:20:48):

Plus a minus 20 to 30%, that's the best in the world.

Robin Alden (00:20:54):

Did you then can tell them the right number to catch? And if they only catch that many, the population will rebound, which is not in a dynamic ocean

Ted Ames (00:21:07):

It's never worked.

Robin Alden (00:21:08):

And so it's just based on it's numbers, it's a paper, but there's not ecology. And so, um, I often say that climate change has been a gift for fishery science, because it's fundamentally challenging this static model. This is an input out put model. That's been, it's been greatly dressing up with lots of extra things in the equation, but it's basically an input output model they've been using. And in a, um, in a dynamic system, you have to use a different approach. Um, and I've been thinking about composing, uh, and, and sort of the, the math of an orchestra or whatever, and thinking, I mean, where both of us are now thinking is in terms of complex adaptive systems, um, which, uh, what Ted gives the precis too, cause he's just been writing in the last 24 hours, but, but basically you've got lots of different scales, meaning, um, levels. Uh, and instead of looking at the Gulf of Maine, that whole 35,000 square miles, you're looking at different, um, groupings within it, sub units, all of which build up to the biggest,

Ted Ames (00:22:30):

The, uh, the, the current system goes out and makes an assessment. And within the next two years uses that as the basis for subdividing fish for the comical year, it continues to happen. So it's two, three years behind what's actually existing in the world, changes

Robin Alden (00:22:49):

So rapid And

Ted Ames (00:22:55):

In a complex adaptive system where things are changing, um, the re the, the developers of that concept, uh, said, well, look, the system is so resilient because there are sub units, collections of critters that have lived together for centuries eons and evolved this dynamic that allows them to be very abundant. And, uh, what we've done so successfully is with trash key points in those subsystems. So that like you have here, groundfish collapsed in 1995, Cod did, but Cod went alone. It was called haddock, Paula white, Hey, red, Hey, um, uh, Whiting was still around. Look, there's nobody fished them. Uh, all the winter flounder, all of these other fin fish that liked to eat herring and lipid rich prey, they were gone. Nobody knows why. Well, if you look at the historical changes in one of their important components in their prey base, race time, besides, uh, besides targeting spawning aggregations and nursery grounds, where there are mostly Julys, but still quite a few adults, um, we, uh, we have terribly over-fished their prey base. So not only are there very few of a given species left around, but there's also not very much food for them.

Lucas Richman (00:24:55):

They just couldn't survive.

Ted Ames (00:24:58):

And the ones that do grow up, um, they don't hang around because there's no, there's no,

Lucas Richman (00:25:05):

Th th th the whole ecosystem isn't isn't available.

Robin Alden (00:25:08):

So, so, um, you probably heard about the puffins, um, where they've been trying to re re colonate the puffins. And, and there was one year when they didn't, they couldn't find prey. That was the right shape for their, the baby's mouths. Uh, and, um, because the normal prey was depleted and the fish that were there were the wrong shape. Well, very similar. You can have one of these groupings collapsed because of a missing piece. So it might be the juveniles of these prey species for the juvenile Cod. And then that might be the thing that, um, the time period in the Cod's life, when it develops it's homing, it's homing grounding. So that then it does

Ted Ames (00:26:05):

These puffins and Rosa turns. And all of these guys feed on juvenile herring and juvenile elwise river herring. Uh, they, there that's the size pray there they're offspring. And what happened in 1995 is that they used to be a huge spawning ground for Atlantic herring, right out here by around the 10 NICUs and, uh, uh, seal island and that whole area. And the only other source of juvenile herring was in, in, uh, uh, grandma and aunt channel up at the mouth of the bay of Fundy, that service to provide all the Atlantic herring we see around here. Well, they flattened, uh, uh, the Penobscot bay herring in 1995. They over fished it. And the whole spawning area collapsed nobody home anymore. Puffins stopped because the birds were flying. The adults were flying, uh, a hundred miles off shore, and all they could find was butterfish they were the right size this way, but they're about this thick, and there's no way that the chicks could swallow them.

Ted Ames (00:27:29):

So they've been trying to rebuild back from that, but what we have done, um, is, uh, part of the group that's been supporting opening up the rivers to get, uh, Lys and other of her herring species back into the system we've been successful, really? Yeah. The Kennebec river Penobscot river and St. Croix, the three major watersheds in the state. We've got open, not all the way, but, uh, that's why puffins are back on the tenant because rock and seal island is because the story is wonderful story. That's why there are salmon back in the Kennebec. And that's why we have hopes for they've got the Penobscot was damned back completely off, not 1847. And here five years after they've opened it up, they have runs of two or 3000 shad going into it. They've had short nose sturgeon going into it, which they didn't know they had before and, and, uh, herring. It's what it's coming to life.

Lucas Richman (00:28:45):

Well, that's so wonderful. So what's going to stop that from happening, uh, the over fishing from happening. Again,

Robin Alden (00:28:53):

It won't happen because in terms of those river fisheries, the rules are very, very good.

Lucas Richman (00:29:00):

They've changed since the decimation of the 1840s.

Robin Alden (00:29:04):

Yes. I mean, there was no

Lucas Richman (00:29:06):

Very little, no, but I mean, if, if the, the, um,

Ted Ames (00:29:10):

Yes, ma'am that, that recovery for the river herring, which is key to the puffins and these various sea birds, that nest along the shore that can be shut down by the, uh, current herring fleet, which have, so over-fished herring, herring stocks right now are so depleted that the fifth year class has already been fish for three years. The fifth year class is larger, remaining is larger than all four earlier year classes put together. This whole Atlantic herring fishery is, is on the brink of dive bombing. Well, national Marine fishery service tried to help by protecting fishermen. And mid-water trawls by saying, okay, boys, you have to cut back. You're only allowed to catch 22,500 metric tons this year.

Robin Alden (00:30:13):

So is that another arbitrary kind of,

Ted Ames (00:30:19):

It's huge. It is. It is. And

Robin Alden (00:30:23):

It's still a lot, it's a lot, but, but to stop it completely would be.

Ted Ames (00:30:31):

And it's, it's, it's, it's, it's the nature of the way federal fisheries are managed. They're controlled by a council in Massachusetts. And, uh, it's populated primarily by, by, uh, lobbyists and environmentalist and commercial fishermen that can go there, have to struggle because number one, uh, the large boat interests, uh, basically captured the, the, the thing. And, and, uh, so how do, how does, how do we change that? I think we have to change it by turning it into, uh, a governance structure that instead of, instead of my having to go to the new England council and begging for their right to catch, uh, we'll say Pawlik out here in the bay, there should be a slice of the Gulf of Maine that says there's this complex adaptive system sub unit that has Pawlak and haddock and so forth and so on, and have that put into a management structure, similar to what we have for lobster.

Robin Alden (00:31:52):

Well, so your question was basically my life's work, and I started to address it in, uh, with the newspaper. And then I addressed it with a forum, the main fisherman's forum, and then I was commissioner, and then I started this and it's been a steady realization that, um, it takes a lot to develop good governance with lots of independent people, and it takes education and science, and it takes advocacy and it takes a whole bunch of skills. And, and, but I think the, um, I hope that Carla spoke with you about that, ah, EMTC initiatives, the ecosystem initiative

Lucas Richman (00:32:42):

Edify me.

Robin Alden (00:32:44):


Ted Ames (00:32:45):

This is the missing piece, or

Robin Alden (00:32:48):

Before I left, um, we meaning Maine center for coastal fisheries, signed an agreement with, um, the federal, uh, agency and the state agency to collaborate on piloting. What would ecosystem based management look like in Eastern Maine? Wow. And it's the first place in the us where this has been tried. It's

Lucas Richman (00:33:15):

It's how long it was. This, this

Robin Alden (00:33:17):

Was two years ago.

Ted Ames (00:33:18):

Okay. And it's just getting underway. It's just

Robin Alden (00:33:21):

Getting underway and it's happening because of the, um, because MCC F has just, you know, it's really community-based right. Um, basically operating from the Penobscot river to the Canadian mine, it's a separate ecosystem. Um, it's a subset of the ecosystem of the Gulf of Maine. The feds have recognized that. And so it's a good place to say, how would we, if we were going to involve fishermen's knowledge, local people, science and management at both levels, how would we manage this differently? And who knows what's going to come of it, but it's a great, great, that's a great step possibility. And in, in a climate change environment, it's really, um, it's excellent to be piloting this, and they're still in the science stage. They're not in the management stage yet.

Lucas Richman (00:34:20):

Um, because everything takes so long to get started and implemented by at the time what you've done, it becomes a model for other people. Um, too many things may have been lost and altered already. Are there, is there a possibility of, um, even what, you're the model that you've set up right now to be modeled in other communities?

Robin Alden (00:34:47):

It could be, and I know nymphs than federal agency is looking at that, but I, I think, um, I'm, I'm conservative about how easy it is to replicate. Um, I think it's, and things will be lost, but we'll still have an ecosystem out there of some sort. Yeah. And the thing that I care about is that we still have independent fishermen who can

Ted Ames (00:35:19):


Robin Alden (00:35:20):

Doing something there.

Ted Ames (00:35:21):

That's the thing that's started in the private cessation as what, what would the, a fleet of boats have owner operators in a town like Stonington. We have more boats here than Gloucester, many times over. Sure. Uh, the difference between us here and Gloucester is that every boat in the Harbor is an owner operator. It's a small business and he's the he's in the business for the term. Uh, he wants to preserve the stock and he wants to be able to fish as high as he can without damage trust. Yeah. Yeah. The trouble with the, with the federal system is that, uh, good businessmen got a boat to fit the size of the management area. That's 35,000 square miles, just Gulf of Maine. And they have Gulf of Maine and Southern new England as well. Uh, so they guy got a big boat and they post fish.

Ted Ames (00:36:23):

They find an area where there's a lot of product fish hell out of it and move on if they've trashed it. And it can cause so much that it can't come back too bad. We've got still got, uh, 125,000 square miles. We can work on. There's no provision for stewardship, especially because you have journeyman Skipper's, uh, you own, you own a half, a dozen boats. Some guy comes in, you needed a skipper. And he comes in and he says, well, I got lots of experience. And then he says, well, have I got a job for you? Sunny. Uh, you take this boat, you come in with a full hole and you got a job. As long as you do it, that you've come in one time with a broker or you get arrested for doing whatever it is you're doing to fail your boat. You're out of here. You got it. Whereas the stewardship, uh, the guy is under the gun. He's got to fill the boat. And if he doesn't, he knows he's out of a job. That's the difference between owner operator. And that's the difference between the scale of the,

Robin Alden (00:37:38):

The fishery. And there's also, um, the ownership and the, and where the benefit goes that can be sold. Those rights, those federal rights can be sold. They can be consolidated. They can be owned by, you know, a fishing company from some other country. So who gave these rights and, and for what period of time are these rights forever?

Ted Ames (00:38:02):

Why? Because the new England council did that. They said, that's the way

Robin Alden (00:38:09):

That's fisheries economic theory. That's been true since the fifties. The idea that if you privatize this public resource, you give people an incentive to take care of it like a farmer.

Ted Ames (00:38:25):

So in cons, contrast that with what the loves of fishery has. We have something called sweat equity. If you want to have a lobster license, number one, you have to go through two years of apprenticeship with a licensed fishermen who has been active for at least five years. And it has to be endorsed each of these sessions that you're fishing within has to be endorsed by the local water. Uh, this is a state of, uh, uh, a state officer. Uh, at that time, you'd go on a waiting list. And when you come off, you can buy a license if you own a boat. So, uh, you can't come down and say, I've got a suitcase full of money. I'm going to be the biggest lump sum in town because it doesn't work. No, it's it forces stewardship on the whole operation.

Lucas Richman (00:39:26):

So, um, is there any possibility of requiring those rights and changing so that,

Robin Alden (00:39:36):

Um, I met an optimist and an activist, and therefore, I would say possibly in the long term, probably only through catastrophe and possibly through some new ideas like this ecosystem approach. Um,

Lucas Richman (00:39:54):

I mean, are people, is it, I mean, those who have the rights, are they, is there, is there any, um, conversation with

Robin Alden (00:40:06):

Absolutely. And as far as they're concerned, you know, they got 0.02% of the Gulf of Maine Cod fish when Cod fish rebounds, let's say, and it's a thousand times bigger than it is now in terms of the stock. That's all theirs 0.02% is still going to be there. And when I was commissioner, um, we had had a situation like this with ocean coags, um, which had been given out as rights to, by the mid Atlantic council, um, to federal fishermen. And at that time, the people who were fishing ocean co-ops in Maine, the biologists and the managers and the fishermen all thought they were separate species and it turned out they were the same species. And so therefore they fell under this quota that had already been assigned, but those fishermen had no track record of ever, ever caught them. So when

Ted Ames (00:41:07):

They call it an imaginary space.

Robin Alden (00:41:10):

So, so they basically, the state of Maine tried to intervene very hard over two commissioners worth. And, um, and the current quota holders at that time, um, said no way, are you going to even add to the pool to allow these people in, because that will dilute the value my stock. And so eventually the state of Maine got a small quarter, they could give to the fishermen, but basically the main cohort fishermen have ocean Cod fishermen. I have had to buy quota from the current owners

Ted Ames (00:41:47):

Or lease.

Lucas Richman (00:41:49):

Uh, it was just one sec, uh, because, um, is it possible that with the successes of, of what's been done here with lobster, that it would be, it'd be in the interest of the rights holders for, um, for more personal inter you know, investment, um, the same kind of situation, wouldn't it be? Wouldn't be behoove them to be, there'll be more productive if, if allowed, if these kinds of, uh, how, how is it that the lobster industry figured it out and is able to do this?

Ted Ames (00:42:32):

Um, I started fishing, uh, in my own boat at the age of 12. Uh, my grandfather, I think got tired of seeing me getting seasick in the stern of his boat. And, uh, so off I went, lobstering was a territorial fishery. Then it involved perishable wooden traps, uh, uh, a natural fiber ropes, wooden pot boys. Uh, it was unpredictable. Uh, uh, you didn't have navigation devices that let you go very far, if could use

Robin Alden (00:43:20):

To the same spot,

Ted Ames (00:43:21):

Uh, getting, getting there after you said it is the challenge and without good devices to tell you how deep it was, was even more of a challenge. So all of these secret locations that used to be carefully defended by the people who fish there disappeared with, uh, the advent of new electronics and, uh, wire traps and hydraulic haulers and great diesel engines. So that happened, but up until fairly recently, uh, people looked at fishermen who worked the shore as old men and kids and headed off shore. That's changed somewhere within this great Bonanza we've had for the last 20 years. And you'll see, 45, 48 foot boats hauling lobster traps right outside the Harbor. Uh, but they're limited on how they can do, but by the number of traps, the size of the traps and so forth and so on.

Robin Alden (00:44:37):

So, so because lobstering evolved as a territorial, um, activity, um, he didn't have that mobile health fishing ability. Oh, okay. So, um, so there was always an assumption that there was an owner operator rule that you had to be in order to be a fisherman, but a lot of it was self enforcement. So if somebody came in and wasn't from this area, then you, there was retribution. They found that it wasn't worth fishing there, or they, they learned the program and, and fit in. And if they were accepted, if they're accepted. So then when, when, um, all of these modern equipment, all this modern equipment came in seventies and eighties, the traps escalated, and there was a really strong call for trap limits. And so part of the trap limit law that passed in the nineties was a combination of trap limits, apprenticeship based entry that control on entry we talked about.

Robin Alden (00:45:45):

And, um, and we codified the owner operator in law. So that's an MCC. I've had a conference with fishery managers and social scientists in 2010. They came from both coasts, the west and east coast of Atlanta, of Canada and us. And we asked one question, what's the, what's the important policy to maintain a community-based fishery. And owner-operator was the key thing that all of those people. And so there are other versions of owner-operator in some other places, but this is the strongest place. And I like to have people envision what would have happened with this huge pulse of abundance in lobster that we've had. Um, if we had not had owner operator wouldn't have been trucks and traps only, and a continued territorial limitation, which is now codified in the zones, um, wouldn't, we have had boats from elsewhere coming here by boats or as huge boats, or as whatever. And wouldn't the value have, have been exported away from the coast. So, um, but I think climate change will climate change and the techno technological innovations of the last 20 years will, are threatening those, the viability of that structure we have now for the lobster and will the threat is coming from inside. If the pulse of lobsters, moose east, well, these guys want knows own lines and be able to follow them

Lucas Richman (00:47:40):

Human nature, because all these lobstermen are not necessarily going to give a move where the lobster are able to deal with.

Ted Ames (00:47:49):

No, they're the areas subdivided into these zones that are probably 40 miles across 50 months.

Robin Alden (00:47:58):

And they were kind of a upstate or approximation of the old traditional territories, not as good as the territories, but they were what the state could do.

Ted Ames (00:48:11):

But the thing is, is, uh, it's turned into the fishery is turned, uh, the whole area into a chicken farm. All you can go all, you can legally catch around here for 90% of the 85, 90% of the fishermen are lobster. Uh, and you can't that's because

Robin Alden (00:48:35):

They've been,

Ted Ames (00:48:37):

Yeah. And if you were to take, uh, this inner layer of grounds, that's about 30, 35 miles off shore and say, this is part of, uh, the management structure, uh, for other species, as well as lobster out to that point, then you would have enough of an area so you could rebuild populations.

Lucas Richman (00:49:03):

Oh, that's interesting. So, so you're saying that. So even if, if you, if you change the structure from three miles and you were able to get more area

Ted Ames (00:49:14):

Out to the area, one, a line that's 35 miles, 25, 25.

Lucas Richman (00:49:19):

So, so what is the possibility of that ever happening?

Robin Alden (00:49:25):

I wouldn't want to say that there was a possibility because it would raise such defensive action, but I'm sure that there's a possibility. Um, and I think this ecosystem approaches the law in the long run. It's a stealth,

Lucas Richman (00:49:39):

It's a stealth and it, and it's a need. I mean, it's, it, it, in, in order for all of this to survive properly, it needs to be managed by the people who are living this every day to be partners in it.

Ted Ames (00:49:52):

Um, and it needs, and, and none of that, it needs to be not privatized. You have to be made responsible. A steward is different than an old.

Lucas Richman (00:50:03):

And when you're saying privatization, you don't mean these individual you're talking about corporate. No. So

Robin Alden (00:50:14):

The rights are given to whoever. If a fishery is going to be private, they give the rights, they take the pool of people. Who've been fishing for a number of years know, pick three years, pick five years. And then they say your catch that you can document is X percent of the total liquids in the Gulf of Maine at that time, that's your share. And you have that share forever

Ted Ames (00:50:45):

Whether you fish it or rented out or, or a seller. It's crazy. That is

Lucas Richman (00:50:54):

That it's so antithetical to

Robin Alden (00:50:57):

The American way.

Lucas Richman (00:50:59):

Yeah. I mean, it's not, it has nothing to do with ecology or, or, uh,

Ted Ames (00:51:05):

And, and nothing to do with, with, with successful businesses. We've looked at the boats in this Harbor, and if you go around the island, you'll find this 400 boats going after a lobster, one specie that was collapsed in the 1930s. And today is the biggest fishery in new England. And, uh, it's, it's, you could do that with a whole suite of other fisheries, except

Robin Alden (00:51:34):

The three weeks. I don't know if you're aware of that, but it hasn't always been where it is now.

Lucas Richman (00:51:39):

Uh, also, um, can you speak to the, what is it the lobsters eat? Because isn't that whole, a whole other issue in involving with, with, uh, with climate changes is doing, I mean, because, because, uh, you know,

Ted Ames (00:51:54):

Uh, they're not hurting for food and actually they're pretty tolerant. They do. Adult loves is do well up to about 65 degrees. Uh, that's pretty warm for salt water, especially in this half of this state. And the adults are good for are, are the larvae are good for about 68 to 70 degrees. Therefore you got real increases in mortality. They Ellie, uh, most anything from seaweed on up to, uh, chicken.

Lucas Richman (00:52:36):

Okay. Okay.

Ted Ames (00:52:37):

So that food is not a problem for them. They're they're bottom feeders

Lucas Richman (00:52:44):

Because I understood that it was, um, with the certain plankton, the right there was a whole fish, the right whales and everything. And, and so, uh, is that,

Robin Alden (00:52:59):

I'm not sure that that's effecting

Lucas Richman (00:53:03):

W I guess I told about the, about the, like the, the teenage lobsters were kind of disappearing or something like that, or like, you didn't know where they were or were not you, but, uh, but then they would, they'd go missing for an, is that

Ted Ames (00:53:19):

When lobster's settled to the bottom, uh, they encrypt, uh, in cracks around the ledges where they live for the next two years. And if you want to find, uh, a law officer that's, that's younger than two years old, you have to look around the, uh, the ledges, uh, at low tide for cracks and inside, you'll see a little squiggly critter, uh, and that's it, after that they start moving around some, but they're very reclusive. And, uh, up until recent years, this is less so now that there are relatively few predators, but, uh, it used to be you'd net losses wouldn't move at daylight because they were just too many things that like to eat them.

Robin Alden (00:54:11):

And I think, again, you've probably heard this from other people, but I think part of the hypothesis about why the population has exploded. So is that they can be on mud now, um, when they couldn't be before and the warming ocean has expanded the off shore, the, um, the area where they can survive.

Lucas Richman (00:54:36):

So, um, I would also like to also get your take on… if you see a connection between aquaculture and, and music culture, or the arts; or Marine life and music.

Ted Ames (00:55:01):

There are any of a number of great songs you could spin from them. Uh, this whole dance of, of seasonal changes in fishery and in species that are a in location changes all the time. The one that got my attention most was, was the whole process of climate change in itself. The warming of water has been, if you look at descriptions, it's a steady slope going up and up. But if you look more closely, if you look at, uh, we'll say decadal changes, it's kind of a waveform that goes along. And if you look at it more closely, you'll have a harmonic super-imposed on it, this going like this. And then it changes the slope after this most recent increase in temperature, you've got a different harmonic going on at this well. And if you could put all of those together, you'd have a wicked good tune, that would end up in a very high note. But it's been going on for eons ever since the last ice age, seven, nine, 12,000 years ago, this was a mountain top. And the Gulf of Maine was a river bed or a pond that led out between Georges & Brown's Bank. And that's how far it's come. So, to say, well, this isn't happening. It's because you haven't lived long enough to see. but yeah, it's changing all the time

Robin Alden

The pace is changing....

Ted Ames (00:56:59):

And it'll be interesting. I'd like to live a hundred more years just to see where it's going, but we take what we get.

Robin Alden (00:57:09):

To see

Ted Ames (00:57:12):

All of the, I, the head of their funding. Well, if you have 10 and a half foot tides here, the head of the bay of funding goes up to 33 feet and you have a surge that's, uh, something like 50 feet high. Well, if you double the water hype here, or even if you increase it by half, does that mean you'll have a 75 foot high surge going up into the head of their funding and breaking into the Gulf of St. Lawrence?

Lucas Richman (00:57:44):

I use the surge now that, that, uh, because there is that, is that where that is? That that comes twice daily, right? Yeah. Yup. How high is that at presently?

Robin Alden (00:57:56):

So it's different all along the coast. And what Ted's saying is that its highest at the head of the bay of Fundy, like a basket

Ted Ames (00:58:03):

Only you have, you have, uh, the, uh, uh, uh, the main coast going all the way up to new Brunswick and then you have Nova Scotia and they all come to a head that's just a few miles across and you have just every time you have all of this slosh coming in,

Lucas Richman (00:58:23):

Have you written on that wave? Because I know people go up there and yeah, they actually, they, they go out and they, they write it and they come back. They're all well, drenched in mud.

Ted Ames (00:58:35):

Yeah. Far as we've gone, we've driven up by it. And I've, I fished up around, uh, past quality bay and bay funding for a number of years. Uh, very impressive tides. And you've

Lucas Richman (00:58:48):

Seen, you've seen it come in,

Ted Ames (00:58:50):

Not that they had, but I have said even at east port, which only has maximum, maybe 19 or 20 foot tides, when the tide is running hot, you'll get a foot of water every 15 minutes. And it's like, incredible. So if you can imagine it being amplified double,

Lucas Richman (00:59:12):

And I hear that they're actually speaking of amplification, is that an actual sound it's like this thunderous on Russia as the water comes in, right?

Ted Ames (00:59:22):

Yeah. Yeah. That was anyway, I'm waiting.

Robin Alden (00:59:28):

I mean, in a, in a storm surge

Lucas Richman (00:59:31):


Robin Alden (00:59:33):

Very sobering there. So I mean art and the Marine environment is just what a rich area, everything from folk song to, um, we have a friend who's a printer and quilt maker who is completely embedded in Marine science and her quilts have graphs in them and have, you know, and it's just amazing. Barbara Putnam is her name and she's, um, uh, she's really exceptional. Um, in her deliberate integration of the two,

Ted Ames (01:00:18):

I see that she has some interesting prints in the quilts it's, uh, but uh, there's been so many great things done with, uh, vis-a-vis the sea and warming. It's pretty hard to, uh, not be able to just pick in any direction, but I thought that that process of increasing temperature or converted into music might be interesting because you have, uh, two harmonics super imposed on the base. Well,

Lucas Richman (01:00:57):

Interesting to, to, to apply that, um, that wave, to find where that would sit on a, on a Sonic wave. Yeah. Um, that's very interesting.

Ted Ames (01:01:12):

Well, the thing is that you can put it at any, you can stand it anyway,

Lucas Richman (01:01:19):

Any pitch. Exactly.

Ted Ames (01:01:20):

And you have probably every tone in, in, in the store, certainly, uh, uh, within the, the, that series of, of, uh, variations, it would be, it would be fun to see where that way

Lucas Richman (01:01:40):

That is actually very intriguing. I mean, the thought of, of the, of the music, um, over the course of the piece, uh, can making that continue to rise and tracking. And you're not even aware of, of it as the,

Robin Alden (01:01:52):

As of a thing. And the fact that the harmonic that the variability increases as well is really, you know, it's going up and the variability is increasing, right. I have to say, when you said lobsters or bottom field feeders, all of a sudden I had a bassoon going

Ted Ames (01:02:12):

Well, and then you could, you could have, you could have the base, uh, as, uh, the amplification of that surge of Ty that they had of, they have funded to get to balance your outside the loop. Right. Well, you could have some fun with that. Anyway, I'll bet

Lucas Richman (01:02:36):

A lot of possibilities. Is there something that I, I should have asked about because I'm coming from a position of knowing just a little bit enough to be dangerous, but not enough to really be informed?

Robin Alden (01:02:55):

Um, I think there's so much uncertainty, you know, the fact again, if you're looking at this as a complex adaptive system, that there, there is predictability in certain small ranges, and then you really don't know how these are, things are going to interact. And it's like the butterfly wing with turning into a thunderstorm.

Ted Ames (01:03:21):

Uh, I, I have a less jaundiced view of complexity. Uh, I think if you, uh, if you control those, uh, the fishing effort, that's going into these subunits, uh, you can't have everything, but you can, you can ensure successful reproduction. Part of the trouble we're having, uh, for some time now is that we fished down a suite of species and we get these exotic lifeforms coming in from Dallas water from somewhere else and they land and, uh, and, uh, and, uh, paradise with no competition. If they can find something delete, all lake need to do is expand and they do. And, uh,

Robin Alden (01:04:18):

So if you had the system well,

Ted Ames (01:04:21):

So that you're

Robin Alden (01:04:23):

In a resilient mode, then it doesn't, it's not as dangerous by the,

Ted Ames (01:04:31):

And it isn't really a box. Uh, ecological boundaries are poor us things, golf father and lasses as conditions change and some species, uh, oh, take, for example, they range much farther than the other guy. That's a herring, well migrate south, and then come back. So you have to base it on where the critter reproduces and focus and focus on those sub units because that's, that's the key to where those guys

Lucas Richman (01:05:06):

More likely to reproduce in one area than move someplace else to where they is. That is that.

Ted Ames (01:05:11):

And they moved for the winter. They like to go, south is warmer. There's more

Lucas Richman (01:05:16):

Either protections regulations in place about those, about protecting those

Robin Alden (01:05:21):

Regions where we're, where we're habitually, gins are all covered by the federal management. So, um, what's not fully understood is the nature of these smaller subpopulations. Most of the rules are basically taken that. They're looking at it as a cottage, as a codfish, not it's an Eastern Penobscot bay cotton fish versus

Lucas Richman (01:05:47):

What's your name or what stage of life is it is the that's true too. I mean, doesn't that have a, uh, a big part. Yeah.

Robin Alden (01:05:54):

Yeah. One of the other things that we haven't talked about that I just thought I'd mentioned that we're not the ones to talk to inside the current. The fact that it's occurrence are changing in their chemistry and their pace and their, and as a result where they're going and that's, that's just something we don't know how that's gonna go.

Ted Ames (01:06:14):

Yeah. And that's the source of the water because, uh, as, as, uh, uh, we ha you know, traditionally you have, I've had this large sink, uh, between south of Greenland and Iceland where, uh, lots of ice had been frozen, but it doesn't take very much salt into the crystal lattice. So it's very cold and very salty water. It sinks to the bottom. Uh, it runs downhill. Uh, and we get a filament of that, uh, current coming into the Gulf of name. That's why this side of the Gulf of Maine is colder than the west.

Robin Alden (01:07:02):

So the name of the ecosystem project that,

Ted Ames (01:07:06):

But it's getting warmer. Yes. Uh, it's getting more diluted. And, uh, even though they have still lots of winter diluted water is less dense. And so that, that tongue, the water is, is warmer and moving slower because it's less dense. And that's, what's really going on

Lucas Richman (01:07:30):

As someone who has been so close to the ocean your whole life. Do you just have an inherent sense of, do you feel that things are different? Not just, not on an intellectual level, but do you, are you able to look out, listen, hear, feel, and, and say, this is not how it was when I was living 30 years ago.

Ted Ames (01:07:55):

Uh, you can do that in the short term. It's tricky when you were a kid, because you, you just remember events and then you layer, uh, 20, 30, 40 years of, of, uh, callous and fantasy on top of it. And what was probably a pretty normal event seems much larger. But tides are larger now. And, uh, and we've lost so many species in terms of - not just in terms fishery itself, but in terms of part of the composition of your community. I mean, I spent years, when I'd come in from, uh, from a fishing trip and someone would ask for your fish, what kind do you want? And they throw it on the dock. It was just part of living.

Lucas Richman (01:09:03):

To extent extinction to the point of extinction, or are

Robin Alden

They are not extinct

Ted Ames (01:09:09):

They're at ridiculously low levels, Um, there hasn't been, um, this Penobscot area here is a fantastic, uh, estuary with juveniles, uh, everything, most, everything you can think of, even haddock, but you, I haven't seen that adult addict cop around here, uh, in probably 20 years. But, uh, there are still a few juveniles that you'll hear about, um, I haven't happened to have seen, but the thing is, is you need that interrelating mix of species in order to get fish that are going to stay here, um, and reproduce. And that's really the key. And that's why the sub unit is good. So if you wanted to take from 30 miles off shore and go the other 170 miles to George's Bank and say, here, boys, it's all yours. You'll leave this pot alone. They wouldn't agree because the only productive bottom along the length of the main coast is right along there. And they got, yeah. Um, off shore. There's still some places out there, but, um, the productivity is right here and that's what made new England so famous, uh, not, uh, Cassius or, or one of these other spots it's still possible to get. Uh, but it really depends on how they want to divvy up the management structure. This works what we have.

Lucas Richman (01:11:07):

Absolutely. And I'm fascinated. And if there's anything that I can do to help as an African, I would be more than honored to actually something that Paul should know actually

Ted Ames (01:11:20):

Yeah. Owner operator and, and, uh, a boundary for keeping the, the, uh, um, the larger boats off shore. And if you can protect that outermost layer or the 50 Fallon line, uh, actually it's the 105 of them line because the 55 rooms are nibbles on it. Once you've got to that point, you've got some of every year class that hang behind for every one of these species. And that was the, that was the stock component that we successfully destroyed. It was a team effort, but now we've, now we've learned it's time to try the other tie.

Lucas Richman (01:12:08):

Thank you so much. This has really been with you. Learn from you. Good. Good to meet you and good luck with this fascinating project. Thank you. What a great commission. It, no.

bottom of page