How Maine’s coast made me better appreciate New Jersey’s Delaware Bay region
I spent this past week in Bar Harbor, Maine in the middle of the state’s coastal zone looking for different ecotourism ideas and approaches to help inspire the rebuilding of our wrecked economy at New Jersey’s Delaware Bay shore community at rural Money Island. It was a partially successful mission. The Maine coast is, of course, a beautiful place. Acadia National Park is also a beautiful place. Then again, so is the Delaware Bay. I was surprised by some of the strong negatives of Maine that we don’t have to deal with in New Jersey. Overall, I’d rather build an aquaculture or environmentally based business in New Jersey.
The price exploitation of their primary food resource – lobsters – was surprising. It makes no sense for their local small business economy. The myth of cheap lobster at road-side boil pots was a let-down. I am generally aware from my work in the seafood industry that the supply of lobsters is strong and that the wholesale price is low. Yet the retail price of live lobsters in Maine is significantly higher than in New Jersey. I typically pay $5 to $6 per pound retail for live or steamed lobster in our local supermarkets back home. The lowest price I found in Maine was $9 per pound and the average price was about $12 per pound. We paid up to $25 per pound for shelled and prepared lobster meat as an ‘add-on’ topping for pizza in a local pub restaurant. That was a disappointment. After overpaying for a few lobster meals we agreed to have our next lobster meal back home. I suspect, but do not know for sure, that this is caused by a monopolistic wholesale seafood distribution system. I’ve long warned about that risk in New Jersey despite warnings that I face risk of violence bu bringing unwanted attention to this tough industry. Lately a few influential people in New Jersey government seem to be taking note.
Sleazy park rangers
I came to Maine with a positive image of U.S. park rangers based on my interactions in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The rangers I met in Maine are a different breed. The several brief interactions were unfavorable. I’ll only expand on one of those interactions here. The rangers apparently know that Acadia National Park has a parking shortage problem. I read a post about the parking problem on their web site. A local shop owner warned up that parking tickets are a big money-maker for the park service here. Knowing this, I was especially careful to park on the pavement in designated parking lots, stay within the lines where they were installed and obey posted signs. So I was surprised to get an $80 parking ticket for parking in a paved parking lot spot with no markings. I stopped into the park office to ask why and discovered the worst: the ranger was well aware of the exact spot where I was trapped. He knew about the problem before I said anything. As he talked it became clear that this was an orchestrated system between two or more people for the purpose of issuing parking tickets. I mouthed off and told him that back in New Jersey we would put up signs or pavement markings to let people know where they can’t park. Fortunately we have plenty of parking at the bay so this is never really a problem. His only comment was that he had already issued four other tickets that morning in the same spot. It was barely past noon. I did the math. It’s a profitable scam. He mentioned that I was now dealing with federal court. Sleazeball.
Mostly barren waters
Back home if I were to pull a seine net through a small section of the shallow waters of the bay it would come up loaded with a wide range of animals. Grass shrimp, minnows, dozens of other fish species, eels, three or four different species of crabs, jellyfish, and so on. In Maine the shallow waters are mostly barren. There are a few live organisms and we went on a nature cruise where a diver pulled up more than a dozen specimens. The naturalists in Maine talk boldly about the lack of a recreational fishing industry. That isn’t exactly true. But I was surprised to find than Maine waters are even more over-fished than New Jersey waters. The same pattern was apparent with the birds. Maine has some eagles and falcons and other birds. But the number and variety of shore birds birds is nothing compared to what we see daily on the Delaware Bay. I’m not s scientist but my simple observations would lead to to conclude that our waterways are healthier and most robust than Maine’s. Maine’s Marine Programs programs that are discussed on Islands Institute web site make it clear that their research and development programs are still in infancy stage. By comparison, New Jersey has a few well-established success stories by now.
As an aside, while I was here in Maine the National Wildlife Foundation released a report that featured our tiny island in New Jersey as an positive example of living shoreline restoration! I was thrilled.
But they don’t have the bugs
Having made these negative observations about Maine, it seems only fair to counter-balance my comments. Maine was essentially bug-free this week. In fact one night I left the screen door open and did not notice any bugs inside. I saw only one mosquito all week. That’s quite different from back home!