Martha’s Vineyard fishermen band together to promote local catch

Martha’s Vineyard fishermen band together to promote local catch

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The rubber bands are a half inch wide and come in bright colors. Unstretched, each one is about as big around as a man’s signet ring and printed with “Vineyard Wild Caught” and the name of a Martha’s Vineyard lobster boat: “Freedom,” “Martha Elizabeth,” “Esther’s Pride,” “Sherry Lynn,” “Solitude” — a dozen boats in all. They are the bands lobstermen use to immobilize lobster claws so that fish market workers and the customer who buys a live lobster won’t get pinched.

One would think that 10-year-olds would find the bands irresistible collectors’ items, more interesting than pogs or Pokemon cards, and more unusual souvenirs of a Martha’s Vineyard vacation than shells or sea glass. What a great project to get one from every boat. Dad, can we have lobster again tonight?

The bands and the website vineyardwildcaught.com are part of a program begun by lobstermen Wes Brighton, Stephen Larsen, and others to promote seafood that is caught from the waters in and around the Island by Island fishermen.

Mr. Brighton told The Times in an email, “We want the public to know that there is still a thriving small-boat, owner-operated commercial fishing industry on the Island. When fishing is practiced and regulated in a sustainable way, it is not only sustainable environmentally, but also economically, socially, and culturally. The value of those three factors goes well beyond the price difference of a local vs. non-local lobster or fish (never mind the freshness).”

While there are more lobsters consumed locally than caught locally, the lobstermen see that as beside the point. They are focused on keeping the lobsters that are caught on the Island identified, understood, and fairly valued. Larsen’s Fish Market in Menemsha, the Menemsha Fish Market, Edgartown Seafood, John’s Fish Market, and the Net Result sell local lobsters and are listed on vineyardwildcaught.com.

The website carries pictures of lobster boats and their captains, as well as other photographs and information about the Island fishery. Mr. Brighton reports that many fishermen and fishing families helped with the web design, photographs, and information, and he promises more to come.

Startup money for the website and the bands came from a $9,000 grant from the Menemsha Fisheries Development Fund, which funds projects that advance the local fishing industry. Mr. Brighton hopes that the lobstermen will continue the program after the grant money is used up, and they also plan to raise money through donations and fundraisers.