By: LUMO Leaders
The marine biology lab isn’t the only place that women are surging ahead on the ocean. Meet two dynamic women who are making their living fishing.
Lobsters in Maine
Anna Conathan’s journey started when she was working as an actress and writer in LA. She was writing a romantic comedy about a woman who wins a lobster boat in a game of cards, and while researching the play/script; she actually ended up on one. Anna quickly found that she really liked lobster fishing and wanted to know more. When her family moved to Maine a few years later, she knew exactly where she wanted to work.
“I never would have thought in a million years that I would feel the way I do on a boat. I’m much tougher and stronger and capable than I ever thought I was.”
Anna didn’t have a background in fishing, and as she says, “I don’t exactly scream sternman;” but she found a friend, a retired geologist who was willing to take a chance on a new sternman (the person who works at the back of the lobster boat and assists the lobster pots in and out of the water). This coming summer marks her 3rd year on the boat.
Why does she love it? Fishing has changed the way she sees herself.
“My entire existence in LA was based on what I looked like, what I weighed, how funny I was — so much of my identity was linked to my professional commodity. When I started working on the boat, it was the first time that I wasn’t the product; it didn’t have any reflection on who I was, and it wasn’t about selling myself”
The screenplays may take a backseat to the lobster boat now, but during quiet times out on the water Anna can still be found writing standup or screenplay ideas in dry erase marker on the walls of the cabin.
I’ve known Allison Paine a long time — we grew up together on Cape Cod. When I moved back, she offered to take me out to the mudflats to tour the oyster beds she has been working. Sometimes her two young sons come with her, especially in the summer, but on this cold November afternoon while the kids were in school, we headed out just the two of us in an old pick up.
After college, Allison’s father had asked her if she wanted to try and farm the family’s shellfish grant. Allison has been farming oysters out of Wellfleet ever since. Most shellfish grants in Wellfleet, many of which are rented from the town, are only accessible at low tide. As a result, Allison and her fellow farmers need to work around the tides, sometimes early in the morning or late at night to maintain the oyster condos (those large metal cages you see in the mud) or to harvest fully grown oysters for market.
Allison is among a handful of women who farm grants on the Cape. The work can be physically challenging, but she loves being outside and being her own boss. Oyster farming is considered to be sustainable seafood because the oysters, as filter feeders, are helping to keep coastal waters clean, and by farming and seeding the area they are not depleting the wild populations.
These two Smart Girls are redefining the phrase “farm to table” and we think it’s incredible.
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