Fishing businesses come in all different shapes and sizes, and much like other industries, what fishing looks like is continuing to change. I was talking with a farmer a few months ago and he was sharing an unfortunate story with me: one of his neighbors had complained about the solar panels that they had erected in one of their fields. His response was, “That’s what farming looks like now!” Well, just how farming is changing and becoming more efficient and environmentally-friendly, so is fishing. You can no longer close your eyes and picture a red barn and consider that a farm in the same way you can’t just close your eyes and picture the Old Man and the Sea and call that fishing.
Amanda Moeser owns Lanes Island Oysters, at the mouth of the Royal River and Harraseeket, and has had her farm for 3-years. She is also the Coastal Conservation Coordinator for the Nature Conservancy. (Oh, and getting her Ph.D.) From Wisconsin, she spent time on the West Coast studying fisheries ecology. She initially had a negative perception of aquaculture, but like many growers, has learned and implemented low impact measures to produce good, clean product. She’s even modified the way she farms her oysters a bit to be more aesthetically conforming to her surroundings and keep the water clean. She mentions, “Oysters help clean the water that people like to swim in and fish in.”
When I asked her how she got started she said, “My methodology was to try everything. I treat them like animals. It’s like a herd of oysters and I have to clean them and properly distribute them.” When she moved to Maine she lived on her boat and started working at Bangs Island Mussels, “I appreciated the work Matt Moretti was doing in the community and his motivation and the people he was employing.” Amanda knew she wanted to be on the water, though, and not simply study fisheries ecology, but be grounded in it as well, so she got her own lease and started Lanes Island Oysters, “When I’m on my island I think about all of the people that have been harvesting [there] before me. I see their shadows.” And then she told me about shell midden that she sees on the island, which I’m embarrassed to say I had never heard about before. Shell midden, or midden, according to the internet, is, “[Some] shell middens are processing remains: areas where aquatic resources were processed directly after harvest and prior to use or storage in a distant location.” Basically, it’s a pile of shells that have been added to for centuries by harvesters who deposit them in the same place over and over. How cool is that?
Steaming a bunch of shellfish is Amanda’s favorite way to cook up a delicious seafood feast. She throws clams, mussels, and oysters all together and eats them with a little butter. She reminded me that you can steam oysters, which is great reminder. Oysters are often prepared raw in restaurants with a variety of accoutrements but sometimes a delicate preparation like steaming (or let’s be honest, frying) can also be delectable.
Amanda told me a story about attending a shellfish meeting in Thomaston. The people she was going to meet were worried that she would get lost, because apparently the last person that attended missed the building, so they told Amanda they would wave her down with flashlights. So, sure enough, as she approached her destination there were people outside the building waving flashlights. It’s that character and kindness that make Maine’s coastal communities so endearing to me; compassion and kindness for other people, and an understanding that sometimes GPS’s don’t work in rural areas and some locations are difficult to spot so you need flashlights. “You can’t get there from here,” is more than just a term in the Mainer lexicon, sometimes it’s accurate.