Vol. 13, No. 1 – January 2008    News & Comment for and by the Fishermen of Maine          SUBSCRIBE NOW!!
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LOBSTER: Now and When
by Fishermen's Voice staff

Scientists say acidification of the ocean, due to global warming, is causing the death of coral reefs — and the habitats they represent for many species — in the Pacific Ocean. There is concern among some Maine scientists that the acid problem could hit closer to home, in the Gulf of Maine, and affect species, habitats and, ultimately, the humans who depend on them. Dr. Robert Steneck at the University of Maine said it is important for Gulf of Maine fishermen and scientists to be aware of the gulf’s inherent susceptibility to acidification.

Steneck stressed he seeks a balanced approach to the question.”A disaster is not imminent, nor are we immune from one,” he said. David Townsend, in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine, agreed that the greenhouse gas problem, due to human impacts over the past century, is real — and it’s a fact, he said, “carbon dioxide mixes with the ocean’s water to produce carbonic acid.” Still, he said, acidity in the oceans is often due to natural processes involving organic carbon in phytoplankton, photosynthesis, and dead carbon from ocean life turning acidic in very deep water.” I would not go as far as Steneck (on acidification),” Townsend said, “but if it’s important then the government has to throw some money at it.”

The health of the world’s coral reefs tends to be pretty easy to monitor — the critters stand still. But lobsters and shellfish — such as clams, oysters, mussels and scallops — also depend on calcium carbonate, an essential substance that allows them to build their shells. Water that is more acid than normal makes it difficult for these animals to maintain the shells they live in.


Kerry Newman fishing in Cobscook Bay. According to scientists, who record carbon dioxide levels by pulling ice cores from deep in Arctic Ice, and examining gas bubbles in amber, the rate in the increase of acidity of ocean water is greater than at any time in the last 20 million years. Chessie Johnson photo © 2007

The King's Broad Arrow – Pine and Revolution
by Mike Crowe

This is Part II of a two-part series, Part I - The King’s Broad Arrow — Pine and Tea, appeared in the December 2007 issue of the Fishermen’s Voice.

The British, in the 17th and 18th centuries had expanded their empire and enlarged their navy considerably. They were then faced with an impending shortage of a critical part of the machine. That was the masts for the warships that gave them imperial clout. London-based contractors sent mast agents, licensees, to harvest the crown timber. Some of these agents got very large tracts of land and their names remain connected to the region. Samuel Waldo, Thomas Westbrook, Mark Wentworth and Edward Parry are a few whose political and financial dealings in mast and timber influenced the course of events in colonial America. When the Crown realized the immediate importance of the New England forests, the response was more laws and tougher enforcement. But the colonies and their economy had by that time become too engaged in this enormous resource to turn away from it. Methods of evading Broad Arrow laws could be ingenious. Seized trees were rolled into rivers and hidden. Some wood cutters marked trees with a broad arrow to reserve trees for themselves. Logs confiscated at mills were sawn as soon as the officials’ backs were turned. If condemned lumber were offered for sale by the deputies, no one would buy it. When a farmer had a broad arrow tree on his property and wanted it down, he cut everything around it and waited for the wind to blow it over, ruining it for mast stock.


Mast roads led straight to the nearest waterway, often through coastal towns. Or, to put it another way, coastal towns in the white pine belt of New England often grew up around roads packed hard by the mast baulkers (moving a mast by sled or wheel). Where mast roads met enroute to the landing, the intersection soon described the turning radius of the big sticks. The town “square” of many a New England coastal village owes its peculiar shape to corners clipped by oxen dragging masts in the earliest days. Copyright S.F. Manning 1979.