The ancient Greeks were spot on when they said, “The only constant in life is change.”
As I write this, the Presidential election is just one week away, and with that comes change. By the time the newspaper is printed, we will know who has been elected President and who won the many Congressional seats being contested.
Whether our nation has elected a Republican or Democrat, Maine lobstermen will continue to face many difficult challenges, challenges that will require tough decisions for all of us.
Like most, I will be relieved when this election is over. The aggressive campaigning and attack ads have become mind-numbing. Elections are strange times and seem to bring out the worst in some of us. The campaigns get folks fired up and create divisions among neighbors, friends, and families. You don’t need to go further than your TV or Facebook to know exactly what I’m talking about.
The lobster industry is not immune to this because the industry is very diverse. We live in different communities; we operate small and large vessels; we fish seasonally and year-round; we fish alone or with crew; with new, modern gear or with our old gear that we somehow patch together. We have different political philosophies, different priorities and different local circumstances. In normal times, we are tolerant of each other and there is a place for everyone. It is this characteristic of the lobster fishery that has kept the industry sound for so long.
This is also why, when it comes to politics, the MLA does things a bit differently than most organizations. The MLA is neither Democrat nor Republican because our members are Democrat, Republican and Independent. The MLA does not pick sides when it comes to elections because we must stand ready to work with whichever politicians are in power and whoever the citizens of Maine elect to represent the state. The MLA works to sustain those things that all lobstermen believe in and that hold the lobster industry together – our sense of pride in our fishery, our strong stewardship ethic, our duty to sustain our communities, and our commitment to ensuring our children and future generations will continue to have a place in the fishery.
When the MLA was established in 1954, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower was in office. Since then we’ve been through five Democratic administrations (Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton and Obama) and six Republican administrations (Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Bush and Trump). Maine has had tremendous bipartisan leadership in Congress during the MLA’s history, including Republicans Margaret Chase Smith, William Cohen, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and prominent Democrats like Edmund Muskie and George Mitchell. Over the decades the MLA has worked with all of these incredible leaders in support of policies that sustain and support the Maine lobster industry.
With age comes wisdom; the MLA’s long history has provided us with a perspective unavailable to younger organizations. We’ve seen the political landscape change over time, and we are feeling the effects of that change very deeply today. While environmental legislation is largely associated with the Democratic party, many of our nation’s most important environmental laws were enacted through Republican administrations. These laws laid the foundation for sustainable resource management which has allowed the lobster fishery to thrive as well as providing clean water and air for millions. Unfortunately, some of these laws have evolved into sledgehammers that today threaten the survival of the Maine lobster fishery and its culture, traditions and communities.
While I know that many lobstermen do not see eye-to-eye on who would best serve our industry as the country’s next President or state Senator, I believe that when the dust settles, lobstermen will remain clear about our shared duty to preserve this fishery and its traditions. The MLA will continue to serve as the steady, well-respected and informed voice to ensure that this gets done.
No one relishes change, particularly not lobstermen. Yet change is coming. There is no way to avoid that reality. My firm hope is that you continue to stand in unity with the MLA to make sure that the Maine lobster industry continues to remain robust, vital and available to those generations of aspiring fishermen who come after us.
The MLA gains its strength from the core elements of this fishery: independence, contentiousness, and fierce commitment to our heritage. Those are the qualities that unite, rather than divide us, in these difficult days. Lobstermen are survivors and always find a way through the storm.
As always, stay safe on the water.