The Downeast Fisheries Trail

by Catherine Schmitt

Yesterday I joined my colleague Natalie Springuel and our partners in eastern Maine to officially launch the Downeast Fisheries Trail. The 45 sites on the trail, in Hancock and Washington counties, highlight the region’s maritime heritage.

“Heritage” means more than just history. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, heritage means “something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor.” Every day along the Maine coast, and out on the cold, clear waters of the great Gulf of Maine, fishing men and women practice something they acquired from their predecessors. This heritage is on display when the whelk harvesters carry their mesh bags from the mud to the truck, and lobstermen stack their pots in the yard, and the weir-tender scoops a net full of alewives, and an angler casts a fly toward a migrating school of striped bass. By honoring the past without harming the future, fishing communities maintain Maine’s marine heritage. Recognizing that fishing communities can’t do it alone, the Downeast Fisheries Trail raises awareness of heritage through education and celebration.

So what does this have to do with science and seafood? Science provides the data and analysis that illuminate the past and provide insight for the future. As for seafood, it seems that we sometimes forget when we talk about “fisheries” and the “fishing industry” that really we are talking about food. When people eat Maine seafood, they become keepers of Maine’s fisheries heritage.