Hauling in the Sound

I’m not going to be the victim,” lobsterman Mike Theiler says to me as I climb into his Chevy truck, morning light still just a sliver on the horizon. It’s 5:30am on a brisk Saturday morning in January and I’ve come to document the work of Theiler, who is one of the few remaining full-time lobstermen in Connecticut and also vice president of the Connecticut Commercial Lobstermen’s Association. Since a massive die-off event in 1999, spurred by changing ecosystems dynamics, rising water temperatures and pollution stresses, the state’s lobster population has done little to recover. While annual landings peaked at over 3.5 million pounds prior to the incident in 1999, current landings have stagnated at around half a million pounds. As a result, most lobstermen in the state – in the nineties there were hundreds – have turned to other fisheries or livelihoods in order to survive.

After considerable media attention on the issue in late 2011, I was compelled to document the story from a more personal perspective – that is where Mike Theiler comes in. More realist than idealist, Mike recognizes the complexity of the environmental and regulatory variables at play and says that lobstermen need to reassess the ‘business plan’ to determine how they can maximize their return on investment in a time where lobster prices are at a historical low. “Whether it’s the pay for my crew or my insurance,” he says, “everything’s gone up except for the price of lobsters.” He also points out that the peak in population of 1999 was particularly high owing to particularly  favorable environmental conditions, and that the current population is now closer to (yet still lower than) those recorded in the 1980s.

I wanted this multimedia piece to move beyond the statistics to capture the physicality and passion with which lobstermen approach their work each day.  With the recent decision by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to close the fishery for 11 weeks during the fall of 2013 to help  rebuild stocks, this piece serves to document what is becoming an endangered livelihood in Connecticut.

Tahria Sheather

Inspired by its breathtaking beauty and wild nature, Tahria has always had a love for the environment and communicating its complexities. After studying journalism and geography at the University of Sydney, Australia, she worked with government and non-profit groups to communicate issues from environmental planning and development to climate change and food security. Amidst endless travel and exploration, the Australian native developed her photographic skill and now also expresses her passion for the environment and storytelling through the lens.

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One Comment

  1. Really enjoyed the personal story element here Tahria. What do you think is the best (and possibly fairest) solution for everyone involved?

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