Recently, my husband and I spent a day at Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in Steuben, Maine. This refuge, located on a thin peninsula in the Gulf of Maine comprises a few miles of rocky beach surrounding heath, bog, and forest. It’s a beautiful spot in a sparsely populated county in a sparsely populated state, and we saw no other humans during our 5 hour hike. (We did, however, see a large herd of deer, several porcupines, and plenty of shorebirds.) Despite the lack of people, the human impact was all too obvious.
Lobster fishing is a major industry in our county, and over the past decade wire traps, coated in plastic, have replaced the traditional wood traps. Traps periodically break free of their lines and wash ashore. Wood traps quickly fall apart, but the metal and plastic traps do not. Although these new traps haven’t been used for very long, there were many hundreds tangled together and lining the sea walls along the shores of Petit Manan (see photos).
There was plenty of other trash (lots of water bottles, plastic rope, and plastic containers), but the lobster trap refuse dwarfed everything. One can only wonder what another decade will bring.
Lobster trapping is a major source of income in coastal Maine towns where there are few job opportunities. These people need jobs, but our seas and our shores need protection, too. As we look toward a future with dwindling sea life and an end to abundant, cheap fossil fuels, we will need to create healthy new economies and jobs that meet human needs while also protecting fragile ecosystems.
I hope Petit Manan will remain a national wildlife refuge and not a place for wildlife refuse. But that won’t happen unless we think ahead and commit to creative solutions for a rapidly changing world.
Images courtesy of and copyright Edwin Barkdoll.
Filed under: Environmental Preservation, systemic change | Tagged: conservation, consumerism, Environmental Preservation, lobster fishing, lobster traps, national wildlife refuges, plastic waste, systemic change, trash | Comments Off