Delivered at 2003 Boston Harbor Islands Science Symposium
Using computer mapping technology, students from small island communities in Maine can track lobsters caught in their town, around the country, and even the world. Customized claw bands will direct consumers to a web site where they will learn about the community where their lobster was caught, and even see a picture of the very fisherman who caught it. At the same time, by entering their zip-code, they will help build a database of lobster distribution that the students can use for a variety of educational projects.
Can Maine’s small island communities benefit from globalization? While the global economy is often thought to be a threat to small communities and the cultural diversity they represent, in the case of certain traditional resource-based economies it can represent an opportunity. Local products linked to distinct geographic regions, such as the Maine lobster, have a reputation of high quality and tremendous value on the global market. People around the world maintain almost mythical notions about the quality of life in Maine, about the picturesque towns, the rugged and independent people, and the pristine, healthy environment. This aura of ‘Maine-ness’ adds a great deal of value to all products that originate here, but is particularly important to the lobster. The global market’s thirst for the authenticity of the local can provide a valuable opportunity for Maine’s island communities to assert and strengthen their identities by telling, in their own words, the stories behind their economies.