National Fisherman

Their eyes were watching cod

A midcoast Maine longline survey keeps tabs on groundfish

By Paul Molyneaux

An hour before dawn on a late summer morning, wind blowing in from the southwest, I arrive with 42-year-old lobsterman Jason Joyce at Burnt Coat Harbor on Swans Island, Maine. Dim shadows of boats lay on their moorings, and under a light near the end of the Joyce family’s wharf, Jason pauses to talk to his father, Carlton Joyce.

“Going longlining today?” Carlton Joyce asks.

“Yeah, going down to one of the closer spots, see if we can set,” says Jason Joyce.

“Might be a little breezy,” his father replies, as he turns and walks away to tend his lobster gear.

Twenty minutes later Jason Joyce has his 38-foot Calvin Beal boat, the Andanamra, a poetic amalgamation of his four children’s names, in alongside the wharf. His sternman, Andy Haney, a 6-foot-2 New Yorker with family ties to the island, has dragged 16 totes of baited longline — “tub trawl” in the New England parlance — from a walk-in freezer out to the derrick used to lower them aboard the boat.

In the course of loading the bait Joyce asks Haney to secure a line. “Just pass her through that loop that makes up herself,” Joyce offers. Haney looks up, perplexed by Joyce’s phrasing, but he figures it out. Joyce’s family has been living on this island since Col. James Swan, a Revolutionary War hero, bought it in 1806. The islanders have habits of thought and language rooted in their long history as fishing people.

But Maine’s inshore groundfish fishery, which at its height in 1859, provided direct employment for more than 8,000 coastal residents, now employs about 70. One high school student I met on the ferry coming over said his plans were to leave the island as soon as he graduated. “We used to have three fish plants here,” he told me. “Now it’s a retirement community.”

Inside the Industry

Abe Williams, who was elected to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association board last spring, has been selected as the new president as of September.

Williams fishes the F/V Crimson Fury, and is president of Nuna Resources, a nonprofit that supports sustainable resource development in rural Alaska, including fighting for an international solution to issues raised by the proposed Pebble Mine project.


The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is teaming up with leading shark-tracking nonprofit Ocearch to build the most extensive shark-tagging program in the Gulf of Mexico region.

In October, Ocearch is bringing its unique research vessel, the M/V Ocearch, to the gulf for a multi-species study to generate previously unattainable data on critical shark species, including hammerhead, tiger and mako sharks.

Try a FREE issue of National Fisherman

Fill out this order form, If you like the magazine, get the rest of the year for just $14.95 (12 issues in all). If not, simply write cancel on the bill, return it, and owe nothing.

First Name
Last Name
U.S. Canada Other

Postal/ Zip Code
© 2015 Diversified Business Communications
Diversified Business Communications