Milbridge Lobsterman Makes Multi-year Donation to #SaveMaineLobstermen

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association’s (MLA) Save Maine Lobstermen campaign — to raise $10 million to wage a legal battle against the National Marine Fisheries Service’s punitive 10-year whale plan — has inspired support from people and businesses throughout the state. To one contributor, a donation of $2,000 each year for three years to the campaign was a matter of simple common sense.

Eric Beal of Swans Island Maine, image courtesy Bar Harbor Bank

“I’ve been fishing for more than forty years,” said 60-year-old Eric Beal of Milbridge. “I knew I had to do something.” Beal thought about making his donation anonymously. “But then I thought I needed to put my name behind it. Other guys may think, ‘Well if he gave this much, it must be needed.’ And that’s true. If we don’t all do something, we are not going to be fishing.”

Beal, who is well-known on the lobster boat racing circuit and has long served on the Zone A Lobster Council, has thought hard about the problem of the endangered North Atlantic right whale. He, like so many other lobstermen, has no desire to entangle a right whale but he also feels that the 10-year whale plan will do little to protect the whales while doing much decimate the Maine lobster fishery.
“You know lobstermen are conservationists. We don’t want to tangle with the whales. And those right whales are going where their feed is. Sightings of right whales are way down in the Gulf,” Beal said. “You don’t go to a restaurant if you are not going to eat.”

The MLA’s legal efforts against the whale plan have Beal’s full support, both financially and personally. “The MLA was created by lobstermen. It’s a spokesman for us. We have to support the campaign because whoever has the most money in this will win, whether they are right or wrong,” Beal said.
He’s seen many changes along the coast since he first started fishing. Long ago, his grandfather ran sardine carriers for the local sardine factories. During his first few years of high school Beal started out helping his father build and maintain herring weirs. Soon after his first year at the University of Maine he returned to Milbridge and, with a loan from the bank, bought his first lobster boat for $31,000. “I dug clams to pay for it,” he recalled.

“The fishery’s changed a lot. I’m setting traps where I never would thirty years ago. It’s crowded! But we [lobstermen] need each other, no matter what part of the coast. We all have the same conservation ethic,” Beal said.

“It’s time for everyone to step up. I figure, if I do this, the young guys might follow.”

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