The main thing most people know about Maine is that it has good seafood. Well, that and it's really far north. As a coastal state that sits off the beaten path, it's only natural that Maine has had time to develop some differences from what we, in the Lower 48, call the norm. One of the latest changes has taken place within the lobster economy.
In today's fisheries, more and more women are running the show.
A Man's Job No More
Even though lobstering is a physically demanding and often dangerous job, Maine's lobster fleet has continued to grow steadily thanks in part to an influx of female lobsterers. Traditionally a man's job, according to 2016 statistics provided by NPR, 434 of the 5,000-plus lobster licenses in Maine now belong to women.
Sadie Samuels is a prime example of this demographic change. At 25, she has spent the majority of her life in or around Maine's Rockport Harbor. Today she has a 28-foot boat that she captains. Samuels told NPR, "I'm more comfortable driving around out here than I am driving down the street in a car."
She and many other women are becoming a more frequent sight on Maine waters. In fact, Samuels told NPR that her fellow fishermen are less skeptical of her lobstering capabilities than her customers at the nearby farmers markets.
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She and her sister, Molly, have spent many Saturdays fielding incredulous questions about the nature of their lobster. Molly Samuels told NPR,
"People would come up to us and be like, 'So who caught these lobsters?' And we were like, 'We did.' And they were like, 'But who really caught them?' And we were like, 'We did.' And they'd ask, 'Whose boat?' and we'd say, 'Our boat.' So it's just this back-and-forth thing. So, yeah, it's still weird."
However, she does concede that over the years things have been steadily changing.
Once upon a time, "Maine had a pretty big history of women being involved in the fishery, like in the big schooners," Sadie Samuels says. "There were many women who were the navigators of the boats and did all kinds of really awesome stuff. But you don't ever hear about it."
Today though, seeing women in the fishing industry is becoming more expected. And while there may not yet be glory for those females who brave the rough waters and cold weather, at least they are now known as captains and no longer merely fishermen's wives.