Krista Tripp grew up and still lives in Spruce Head, Maine. She recently received her lobster license after spending 12 years on the Zone D lobster license waiting list while working as a sternman for other lobstermen. This interview was recorded in March 2018 at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. Krista Tripp was interviewed by Matt Frassica with help from student intern Teagan White. This interview was edited by intern Kaitlyn Clark.
I’ve worked on boats basically my whole life and I started, I’d say, probably around the time I was 13. That’s when I got my first official job with my grandfather on his lobster boat. I did stern for him for like a year and then when I started high school, me and my brother got a boat to share. So we each had 150 traps, and sometimes I would go stern for him and he would go stern for me. I did that all through high school and we would each have to log our hours and amount that we hauled and what we caught, poundage-wise.
Unfortunately, I went to Massachusetts and went scalloping a little bit and I didn’t get my paperwork in on time. I just kinda left it up to my parents and they’re kinda old school. They didn’t take me seriously because I am a woman and so they didn’t really think to turn my paperwork in. Well, I was definitely serious about it, so I was kinda upset when I came home and realized that I had missed the deadline and my brother got his license and I got put on the waiting list. But I was able to learn some stuff and come back home and still work on boats. After being on the waiting list for 12 years, I just recently got my lobster license and I’m so grateful that at least I finally got it.
This year I’ve worked my way up to 500 traps. You’re allowed 100 each year, so I started at 300 and last year was 400 and then this year is 500 until you reach your trap limit which is 800. This year I’m going on my own and it’s really exciting because I actually ended up with my grandfather’s boat. He passed away a couple years ago at the time that I was getting my license and by the grace of God everything kind of fell into place. I ended up purchasing his lobster boat so I’ve been able to keep it in the family.
I really do think [my grandfather] was open to [the idea of me being a lobster fisherman] because not only did he take me as his sternman but he took my aunt, and actually my cousin, who never really grew up in the lobstering industry, he brought her onboard just to show her the ropes. My parents have come around now. I mean, when I was younger you never saw any women really working on boats, you know? In our family, that’s all we did, so it was just the norm for us. I don’t know if I was just really sheltered and didn’t know of other women in other areas fishing, but I certainly felt like the oddball in my school and growing up in my area. So it’s really great to see a lot more women getting into the industry.
I always knew that [fishing was] what I wanted. I really enjoyed it when I was younger and I would actually stack my study halls at the end of the day in school so that I could leave school early and go to haul. So I guess I just knew then that I really enjoyed it and that’s what I really love doing. I mean a lot of my friends were going off to school and I was the one that was like, “Okay, well, I’m just gonna stay here and do college here, and that way I can still go fishing.”
Although I live on Spruce Head, I fish South Thomaston because that’s what my family always did. I actually had the option to fish Spruce Head because I live there, but I talked to my dad and he just didn’t think it would be right for me to do that, whereas all of us fish South Thomaston. So that’s what I’ve been doing. When my grandfather passed away, [my dad] bought my grandfather’s house. My grandfather fished Criehaven, so my dad’s fishing Criehaven now and he fishes in federal waters as well, and so does my brother. So I’m kinda actually left alone. I wish more family was still fishing around me, but hey, it’s okay, I’ll figure it out.
I would absolutely love to be the first federal water fisherwoman. I think that would be so cool, and not only that I’d be with my brother and my dad. I think with being a woman fisherman, you’re always gonna come up against different obstacles. It’s really hard honestly, to be a woman amongst all of the boys because you’re not one of the boys. I think a lot of people don’t take women too seriously in the industry and I hope that will change.
The things that I’m worried about are changes in the fishing industry. I just sat in on this meeting that had to do with right whales. I can totally understand why they’re concerned, but it can be really expensive [to protect the whales from fishing gear] and if it is not effective then it’s us fishermen that suffer. We’re the ones that are paying for it ultimately.
Our generation is really going to have to come up with some solutions to keep the lobsters alive and well and producing. I hope that we won’t have to deal with any horrendous algae blooms or the lobster moving way offshore and us not being able to go fish for them. That’s why I’m kinda stressing about getting a federal license, because we don’t know what’s going to happen. We can speculate all we want but we just don’t know.
Years ago, people would just fish in this inside channel. My father actually was one of the very few that started fishing out here [offshore] to get away from all the others. Now a lot more people are finding that there’s lobsters way offshore so they’re getting bigger boats and they’re getting the equipment needed to go fish offshore. But who knows if they were always out there or if they just stopped coming in or if global warming is affecting their patterns or what.
If the fishing industry goes away, then that’s a huge concern. I always had the idea that, you know, I would pass it down to my kids and that they would pass it down to their kids. This has always been such a way of life here that we really don’t know what else we would do, you know? Hopefully we’d be able to find some kind of other things to do on the water, maybe another species or something to catch, but the fear is that we’re not going to have an industry to pass down to future generations. Because what would we do? We’re all built on lobstering.
Voices of the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, an Oral History, was made possible by Maine Sea Grant, The First Coast, College of the Atlantic, and the Island Institute. This series is coordinated by Natalie Springuel, Maine Sea Grant.