Vol. 11, No. 8 – August 2006    News & Comment for and by the Fishermen of Maine          SUBSCRIBE NOW!!
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Driving Backwards?
by Jeff Della Penna

In the natural world, wild predators pick-off the weak, the young, and the infirm of their hunted prey, and thus leave the fastest growing, strongest, smartest and biggest of the species to dominate the gene pool. According to a growing group of scientists, today’s modern human hunters have turned the natural selection process on its ear. Instead of weeding out the stragglers from the herd, we humans tend to focus our sights on the biggest prize, the alpha male or female, or the one with the greatest market value. Worrying about the perpetuation of any given gene pool seems to be the lowest of our priorities.

Commercial fishing, whether intentionally or not, is no exception. Dr. David Conover is the dean and director of the Marine Sciences Research Center at State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has just completed a research project with Atlantic silversides demonstrating the selection process of fishing pressure. He and other scientists say the silverside research shows that advances in fishing gear and tracking technology just might be the catalysts for the rapid evolution of many of our most heavily fished species.

“Suppose you were a farmer who managed his own herd of cattle,” Conover explained. “Each year you harvest some of your cattle and you keep the rest to be the breeders for the next stock. And in the process of choosing the stock that you’re going to sell, you make the decision to sell all of your biggest cattle because, pound for pound, you’re going to get more money for them; they’re bigger and they’re worth more on the market. Most farmers would quickly realize that your plan would be a shortsighted strategy, because the breeders that you’re keeping for your gene pool are the smaller cattle. If you do that every year, sell the big ones and keep the little ones, the cattle in your herd are going to get smaller and smaller. That’s exactly what’s happening with the fisheries. Even though it’s wild, rather than being on a farm, that’s what we’re doing with the fisheries. Ultimately, we are going to drive the size of fish in the wild population down.”

“Evolution is measured in generations, not years. It’s what happens from generation to generation that we’re looking at. Rapid evolution simply means that it’s happening before our eyes, but it’s still happening over generations of the species.” —Dr. David Conover. Photo:Rich Ruais

Right Time, Right Place
by Mike Crowe

Lobster fishing hasn’t changed lobster boat racing, but racing has changed lobster boats. The first fishermen to pull the mast out of their sloop boats and drop in an engine from the family car would be amazed, and no doubt pleased, by the way some boats get up and go at the races today.

Two major changes in the last 90 years or so of lobster boat building are the introduction of the engine, around 1910, and the development of fiberglass in the 1970’s.

While the engine made it possible to go fishing with or without wind, the wooden lobster boat hull design that followed made it possible to take advantage of more of the engine’s potential. When fiberglass suddenly appeared, a similar sized lobster boat could be built that weighed 1,500 pounds less. And since it didn’t soak up water, it stayed 1,500 pounds lighter.

As the lighter—and potentially faster—fiberglass lobster boat was being developed, engine choices were going from larger automobile engines to larger marine engines. When the course of evolving fiberglass building industry intersected the rising demand for more power, boat designers had something to wrestle with. At that intersection, at that time, was Spencer Lincoln. He wasn’t the only one at the intersection, but he came up with his own solutions.


Finest kind Custom Tuna Boat, the Merrill Patricia, by Spencer Lincoln. Late 1980’s The photo shows a round bilged hull form without a keel will heel inboard in a turn.. Photo: Brian Robbins


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