Maine Lobster Pot Tag Sails to England
MPBN - Reported By: Tom Porter
Have you ever been walking along a beach, seen something washed ashore, and wondered where it came from? This thought certainly occured to Simon Bone, as he went for a family stroll in Cornwall, southwest England in December of last year.
It's a tale of coincidence, which links two lobster fishing communities on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
Simon Bone was out with his wife and two sons, taking the brisk winter air at Perranporth Beach, near the most westerly point of the British Isles, when something caught his eye, his wife Sharon recounts. "As we got to the top of the beach Simon saw a red tag sticking out, and picked it up and saw it was a lobster pot tag, saw some numbers on it, and he just wondered if it could be traced and put it in his pocket."
Like Maine, Cornwall has a sizeable lobster fishing industry, so washed-up lobster gear is not an uncommon sight. But, there was something foreign-looking about this faded red tag, with a curious set of serial numbers on it. Simon got in touch with his friend Sue Sayer, who runs a Seal rescue group in Cornwall and is a keen observer of oceanic debris. "And he said to me Sue have got any idea how to find out where this field tag's from, and I said, 'no I don't, but I'll have a look on the Internet.'"
She then emailed Greg Power, a fisheries expert at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northeast branch in Massachusetts. He then forwarded the information to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, where analyst Ann Tarr was able to cross-reference the number on the tag.
It was traced to a lobsterman who still lives and works in Jonesport, Washington County. Ann Tarr says the tag that Simon found in Cornwall in December 2008, was issued more than 8 years earlier. "I just think it's really incredible that it makes its way there, and it just shows how we're really all connected. And we often times don't think of that, but we really are."
The Jonesport lobsterman whose tag wound up in England, did not wish to be interviewed for this story - he did say, however, that he thought it was pretty 'neat' how his gear had travelled over 3,000 miles and then been traced back to him.
But the story doesn't end there. The experience with the tag from Maine drew Sue Sayer's attention to a buoy - which the Brits pronounce 'boy' - that had turned up on one of the beaches back in Cornwall where she goes seal-spotting. "We've had a big white buoy on our seal beach for several weeks, since probably mid-December, maybe even early December. And it wasn't until the start of January that I realized it had a code on it. And as soon as I saw it had a code on it, I thought this is worth trying to track down."
So, she got in touch once more with Ann Tarr from Maine's DMR, and was able to track the buoy down to yet another Maine lobsterman - David Osgood from the island of Vinalhaven. "I thought it was pretty incredible that the buoy could make it over there, and then someone would pick it up and manage to get in touch with me."
Believe it or not, this is not the first time Osgood's lobster gear has turned up on a foreign beach. "A young guy from Vinalhaven was vacationing in the Bahamas two years ago, and he walked up on one of my buoys on a beach down there. I should probably start playing the powerball lottery a bit more often, I guess, the way my luck is going with these things."
So why does all this stuff from Maine keep turning up in Cornwall, a region of England which like Maine, has a long coastline? "Once something gets offshore far enough that it gets pulled into the Gulf Stream, the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Drift will bring it across the Atlantic Ocean to the British Isles," says David Townsend, a professor of Oceanograpy at the University of Maine. "And we certainly have seen drifters deployed for scientific reasons circulate around the gulf of Maine, eventually leave the Gulf of Maine and times, not very commonly, but at times, they will be caught up in the Gulf Stream, which is pretty far away, it's not just outside the Gulf of Maine, it's hundreds of miles away."
"It is amazing that we're all connected, even though we're three thousand miles apart," says Sue Sayer back in Cornwall. For Sayer this is a tale that inspires wonderment - wonderment at the power of mother nature, the power of coincidence and the power of the Internet.