Venook: Do you ever come into conflict with other boats?
Rosen: There are all sorts of conflict issues. Because lobstering is one of the last kind of fisheries in the state, we don't have as many user conflicts as we used to. I'm not old enough to remember any fisheries. Most of the issues now are within lobstering.
For the most part, you'll know everyone who's fishing in the waters around your area, and chances are you'll know the people from other towns or ports that are fishing. If you don't know someone, you probably know someone who knows them. Guys are always nosey or curious to know who's around them.
Venook: How has lobster fishing changed since you were young?
Rosen: I'm not going to claim to represent anyone but myself, but if you stop and take the time to think about how many lobsters are caught, and how many people are fishing them in 2016, and what the fishery used to be, that'll put everything in perspective. Now, you can make a really good living fishing. When a lot of the other guys out here were younger, what's considered a bad haul now was a great haul then. We were almost spoiled in that regard. If you're a younger guy, you haven't really seen what bad is. The lobster population has exploded in recent years.
This year we definitely had a weird, very slow season when people should have been doing really well. All the younger guys are talking about the world ending, and the older guys are were like, “yeah, well, this is more what it used to look like.” The fishery has had its up and down, but it peaked in the lifetime of younger fishermen today, so they always want to do better than the previous year, and you can't. It’s just an unreasonable expectation. The fishery's responding to fishing stress and population stress. The resource gets fished really hard and handled a lot. It's definitely responding to climate change. You're going to see the effects of that in how fish behave.
Right now, for being such a lobster-focused fishery or community, it used to be very diverse, and there were multiple fisheries. People were relying on multiple fisheries for income and now that it's just lobstering, [people] have expectations that it's going to always provide. There's a problem with having that expectation. You can't grow endlessly. There's a limit to it.
Venook: It sounds like for a lot of the island, identity is really wrapped up in lobster fishing.
Rosen: Yeah, and I'd say that the fishery and its identity is just being held onto so tightly that there's a lot of resistance to change, for better or for worse. That's both a blessing and a curse because it makes the community really stubborn and tough but it also makes people incredibly resistant to potential positive change.
It's a strange time to be someone who works in an industry like fishing and pays attention to politics and how it relates to industry. We have people really against trade deals, when trade deals are one of the most important things for our fishery. You can't think a fishery's just going to work in a vacuum. We're incredibly dependent on the global economy. It might have gone unnoticed by the rest of the world, but the European Union almost just banned the import of lobsters based on lobsters being found in Swedish waters and that could have been a $135 million annual loss in exports. There are things that happen all the time that have really hurt. Little coastal Maine communities forget that it's a global product that we trade on a global market, typically in China. [People act like] we're at war with China right now, but China is our largest expanding market.