In her ethnographic investigation of global marine fisheries, Eating the Ocean, Elspeth Probyn poses the questions that frame her inquiry into human-fish entanglements: “How to eat the ocean well? How to eat with the ocean? Who eats what, what eats whom?” In this two week intensive field course, we will explore these and similar questions through the lens of contemporary community-based marine and intertidal food systems, coastal economies and environmental histories in Downeast Maine/the homeland territory of the Passamaquody tribe. The rich coastal ecosystems and biocultural histories of Maine, home to numerous diadromous fish species, abundant shellfish, seaweed, and other inter-tidal resources, provide the foundation for a historically situated marine and estuarine economy, at a range of scales. The first Community Supported Fishery in the U.S. in Port Clyde stands as an innovation that exists alongside a growing industrial salmon farming sector, even as conservation organizations struggle to reestablish wild populations of native Atlantic salmon diminished by years of overfishing. In this course we will focus primarily on sustainable, small scale, community-based fisheries and related food system efforts, but we will also examine the problems and challenges attending medium to large scale industries as well, including the state’s iconic lobster fishery.
Focused in Downeast Maine/Passamaquody territory, specifically that segment of the coast between Machias Bay and Cobscook Bay, and working with partners from the Greenhorns’ Seaweed Commons project, Smithereen Farm, the Downeast Salmon Federation, and others, we will engage in direct learning experiences in traditional and emerging small scale marine and coast-adjacent food and fishing systems. These will include seaweed and oyster farming on Limited Purpose Aquaculture sites, historic and ongoing Atlantic salmon and alewife restoration efforts, and local herring, sardine, mackerel fisheries and associate processing industries. In addition to complementary explorations of intertidal and coast-adjacent ecosystems, we will also explore local marine environmental histories through museum and historic site visits.