You can find the series, The Maine Reset HERE.
Have you learned anything from making the series that has surprised you?
It has been pleasantly surprising to discover that most people outside of fishing communities have some level of enthusiasm and support for Maine’s fisheries, lobster in particular. They are often eager to learn about it, not just because they like eating seafood, but because the lifestyle of a fisherman is exotic to them in a certain sense. And beyond this curiosity, there really is a broad, general public support for fishermen amongst average people, both in Maine and beyond. Whether I’m working in my current locale of Massachusetts, or on a trip outside of New England, people love the idea of the small, independently owned and operated boats that sustainably harvest the world’s best seafood, and they are shocked to learn of efforts to stamp out the last of the self-employed fishermen.
The handful of people who are truly opponents of fishing are such a tiny minority of the general population, and I can’t emphasize that enough. Most of your neighbors in Maine and around the country sincerely do want to be your allies.
What has been your favorite part and what has been the hardest part?
My favorite part of working on this project is that it’s been an excuse to spend more time returning to Maine and working together with my dad. Having an excuse to see my parents, grandparents, family, and old friends more often has been refreshing.
The hardest part has just been setting aside the time to do the work. I’m the sole proprietor of a small video production business, so the lights only stay on here if I am actively working for my own clients. No one commissioned The Maine Reset, it was just an idea that I had, so my enthusiasm for producing it has been tempered by the responsibilities I have to complete projects for companies that pay my bills. This made it a challenge to clear my schedule for a week at a time to go back to Maine and start shooting, and then return before my work piled up too high in Mass. I managed to do 3 weeks of shooting in 2021, but then I didn’t have any time to really dig into post-production until December rolled around. I was hoping to start having episodes complete well before the end of 2021, but the reality of this being a self-funded endeavor on top of a full-time job has just made everything take longer than I initially planned. The actual work itself has been a blast, and everyone who graciously volunteered their time to participate has been fantastic. The only hard part has been fending off my other obligations for long enough to get things done.
What are your goals and next steps?
I’m just plugging away at editing, every day that I can. My goal is to have a total of twelve episodes, with an average length of 20 - 30 min. each, completed and posted online by the end of April. I have a pile of notes with rough outlines of fifteen possible episodes total, and we’ve completed three of them so far, so we’ll see what we end up with.
Can you tell us about your family and why you were inspired to create this series?
My dad Jason is the eighth generation of Joyces who’ve made their living on Swan’s Island by fishing. And there’s nothing that he loves more than to go out on the water and go fishing. I certainly appreciate it, but my primary interest has always been filmmaking. In early 2021, when Dad relayed to me the developments in offshore wind and new whale regulations that are poised to crush the lobster fishery in the coming years, it sounded like the perfect subject for a documentary. And it was an opportunity for my vocation to intersect with my own history and upbringing in a way that it never has before.
When I was young, Dad didn’t just fish for lobster. He’s tried his hand at going out for scallops, urchins, halibut, tuna…you name it, he’s tried it. Over the years, the opportunities in other fisheries diminished, and like many other Maine fishermen, he ended up pigeonholed into lobster. With the acceleration of policies that can have catastrophic effects on lobstering, the future looks very bleak if Maine stays on the current trajectory. One of my younger sisters is married to a lobsterman on Swan’s. If they go out of business, the effect on them and their children is hard to overstate. They would probably have to leave the island that is their home. They’re just one of thousands of families who could lose everything to the 21st-century manmade dust bowl that I think industrializing the Gulf of Maine would lead to.
How can people help and get involved?
The most important thing that people can do is support the groups that are advocating for fishermen right now. Whether it’s the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association’s #SaveMaineLobstermen campaign, or one of the other great organizations that serve Maine’s commercial fishermen, look first to the groups founded and directed by the commercial fishermen themselves.
For those who believe in the project I’m doing and want to contribute to that, I have a fundraising campaign that is live on Indiegogo for about another month to cover my production expenses. My goal is to raise $30k there, and we’re almost a third of the way there. Whatever I raise there will be disbursed to the project in March and will be a huge help in going towards paying for this work.
I also started a Patreon account which does not have an expiration date like the Indiegogo campaign does. The idea there is that once I complete post-production on everything I shot, people might want to still have the story covered. So, the work can still be supported if people are interested through that account, and I think it accepts donations as small as $3.
Beyond that, I’m very grateful for how everyone has been sharing the videos around. The project only makes a difference if people outside of fishing communities see it, so I hope we can continue getting it out far and wide. The first episode broke 10,000 views a few days ago, which I never expected would happen so quickly.
What kind of feedback have you been getting?
The feedback has been encouraging, the people who are watching the series seem to be enjoying it a lot. I know that I won’t be able to please everybody, but I do find it funny that the only bad review that I’ve gotten so far is from a guy in the offshore wind industry. And I highlighted that somewhat satirically in episode 3, because it really does speak volumes. It’s hard to find anyone who picks the side of the wind developers over the side of the fishermen, apart from the people who are paid by those developers.
Why did you call the series The Maine Reset?
I settled on titling the series The Maine Reset because I think that displacing fisheries to make room for industrial uses will truly reset or transform the state of Maine into something that is completely different than it has been up to now. I think all of us can tend to be overly wary about changes when we’re used to something. We know that nothing on earth is 100% permanent, and change is constant. But I’m not talking about the kind of change that is always coming about organically as time passes. Maine has well-managed fisheries that harvest a small portion of the population sustainably. The natural resources are there. The demand for the product is there. The fishermen with the skills and passion are there. But the move to strangle our fisheries is completely artificial. It would never come about this way without power players moving behind the scenes to shake out the small family-owned businesses who’ve always been here so that they can swoop in and snatch these coveted waters and everything that lies beneath the surface. So, I want to emphasize that the effect of industrializing Maine’s ocean could obliterate the existing culture and economy in a relatively short period of time. It would be most deeply felt in the fishing communities, but I think that the effects of the loss of Maine’s fisheries would gradually affect most of the state.
That’s pretty dark. I don’t want to be all doom and gloom here. I do want to share the story of Maine’s fishing communities in a way that indicates the weight and urgency of these issues. But in addition to providing a catalyst for getting the public’s attention about an injustice that is about to commence, I also want to show what’s good and beautiful about preserving Maine’s waters from development. I’ve realized in the last few years that there’s a significant chunk of Maine’s population who don’t necessarily have any direct connection to fishing communities apart from a week or two of vacation time every year. They’re completely unaware of any of the challenges that fishermen are facing, or what little they do hear about these challenges, they write off as fishermen being either paranoid or uninformed. The underlying assumption is that these communities will always be here, and that fishermen may complain about worries from time to time, but they make plenty of money from seafood and they'll be fine, no one’s trying to take their jobs away from them.
So, the flip side to the title “The Maine Reset” is that this is a chance to clear the deck of myths, misconceptions and stereotypes, and see these fishing communities through new eyes. It’s a chance to look more closely, and with greater clarity than we might have done before at something that many (myself included) have taken for granted in the past. And if we do that, I think we’ll discover that it’s a unique little world that we don’t want to lose. It’s not enough to fight against something. If we know what we’re fighting for, odds are much greater that this knowledge can sustain the will and focus to win that fight.
You can see more about Andrew and The Maine Reset in the March issue of Commercial Fisheries News.