The lobster industry lost an icon when Arnie Gamage passed away a couple of weeks ago. I first met Arnie in the early 1980s at a Legislative hearing. I remember that day well.
There was a bill to do away with the 5-inch maximum protection on lobsters. I met Arnie, Jack Merrill and Ed Blackmore that day in Augusta. We all thought that with the scientists telling us the lobster industry was in trouble and landings around 20 million pounds, doing away with a measure that protected broodstock was the stupidest thing we had ever heard of. Soon after this, Ed Blackmore recruited all three of us to serve on the board of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA). This was the beginning of a 35-year friendship for Arnie and me. I can’t begin to speak of all the positive things that Arnie did for the lobster industry in this state, but I will try to list some of the highlights.
In the late 1980s Arnie was instrumental in starting a collaboration between fishermen and science, working with Bob Steneck from the University of Maine in the Thread of Life in the Damariscotta River. He was also instrumental in forming the South Bristol Co-op.
I’ve always considered Arnie the barometer of the MLA. I can’t count the times when the board would be deadlocked on an issue and Arnie would listen to the whole discussion, not saying a word. Then quietly, with that little laugh he always had, he would cut right to the chase. Nine times out of ten he would be the one to cut to the heart the issue and the board would move in that direction. When Arnie spoke, people listened. Arnie always advocated for what was in the best interest of the fishery. He never had the attitude of “this might negatively affect me, so I’m against it.” He was a big picture guy, looking out for the industry and the next generation of lobstermen.
Arnie loved to be on his Peter Kass lobster boat, whether he was lobstering or shrimping or tuna fishing. He was a fixture at the South Bristol Co-op and mentor to young fishermen, including his two sons, Chad and Adam.
He was also a fixture in my household. Arnie and I talked every week for about 35 years. The conversation would always start with “What’s the price?” Then, “How’re they looking?” Then it would lead into the issues the lobstermen were facing at the time. Then we would talk about our boys and how they were doing. We were both surrounded by sons who were also lobstering; his two and my three. What we discovered over time was that South Bristol was exactly two weeks ahead of South Thomaston in terms of lobstering. When my boys got into their teenage years — and to this day — they always asked me, “Have you talked to Arnie? And what’s happening down there?”
As I sit here and try to remember some of the things I want to say about Arnie, the tears are hitting the paper I’m writing on. I will forever miss the conversations we had and his commonsense approach to all the issues we’ve faced in life and in fishing. As much as Arnie cared about the lobster fishery, his greatest love was his family. He and Gail did almost everything together, whether it was work or play. One of their favorite things was going to their kids’ and grandkids’ sporting events.
Arnie was a tremendous gift to the lobster industry and to all who knew him. He was a loyal friend. I will miss him.
Arnie Gamage, 1952-2020
Arnie Gamage Jr., 67, South Bristol, passed away unexpectedly on the afternoon of March 4. Born in Damariscotta on December 31, 1952, he was the son of Arnold Sr. and Gloria (Chipman) Gamage.
Arnie grew up in South Bristol, where he followed his father into fishing. He started lobstering at age 10. He was very active in the South Bristol community, serving on the school board and coaching baseball for 15 years, from Little League through Babe Ruth.
Arnie was one of the founding members of the South Bristol Fisherman’s Co-op, serving on its board for many years. He was a board member of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association for more than 30 years. Beginning in the late 1980s, he worked with scientists at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, taking researchers on his boat to study lobsters. Arnie devoted his time to numerous activities that benefited the lobster and the shrimp fisheries, including serving on the shrimp advisory committee for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and attending meetings of the Large Whale Take Reduction Team.
He received the MLA’s Golden V-Notch award in 2004. This year he was to be presented with an award of excellence from Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum.
“If anyone calls me up to ask about what is going on, I always make time to answer their questions and let them know what’s happening. I don’t expect everyone to like it, but I’m only sharing what I know. I would never, ever do anything to hurt the lobster fishery in Maine. Everything I do is what I feel is best for the industry,” he said in a past interview in Landings.
Arnie is survived by his wife of 48 years, Gail; sons, Adam and his wife Tory, and Chad and his wife Jennifer; grandchildren, Sophie, Spencer, Blake and Tanner; brother, Greg and his wife Charlene; many nieces and nephews; and his longtime sternman, Tim Ross.