Virginia Oliver began catching lobster off Maine’s rugged shore more than a decade before World War II. She is now 101 years old and maybe the world’s oldest lobster fisher. She intends to keep fishing.
Oliver and her 78-year-old son Max may be spotted setting bait and capturing lobsters off the coast of Rockland, Maine.
“I’ve been doing it my whole life, so I might as well keep doing it,” she reasoned.
Oliver has witnessed the evolution of the lobster industry since she was eight years old. Lobsters have progressed from a poor man’s meal to a delicacy. When she first started capturing lobsters, they were worth 28 cents a pound on the docks; now, they’re worth 15 times that. Wire traps have taken the place of her cherished old wooden ones, which are now employed as kitsch in seafood restaurants.
She now collects lobsters with a boat that belonged to her late husband. ‘Virginia’ is the name of the yacht named after her. While Oliver wants to continue fishing, she is concerned about the state of Maine’s lobster population, which she claims is under tremendous fishing pressure these days.
According to research released last year, the crustaceans are at an all-time high in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, two major fishing regions to the north and east. The Gulf of Maine has long been the heart of the lobster fishing industry. The body of water extends from the Maine coast to Atlantic Canada.
According to the board, the southern New England lobster stock is at an all-time low in terms of abundance.
Last year, American fishermen caught more than 126 million pounds of lobster. Moreover 100 million of those pounds arrived in the Maine ports.
While things have altered dramatically, Oliver still packs pogeys — lobster jargon for menhaden, a tiny fish — into traps to attract the crabs in. She’s still waking up early to get on the boat and do it.
Oliver appears to be carrying on her family’s legacy. Her father was a lobster merchant who started at the turn of the century.
A family friend who lives nearby, Wayne Gray, said Oliver had a fright a couple of years ago when a crab cut her finger and she needed seven stitches. She, on the other hand, had never contemplated hanging up her lobster traps.
“The doctor chastised her, asking, ‘Why are you out there lobstering?'” Gray stated. “She said, ‘Because I want to.'”
Oliver still gets thrilled about her own lobster meal after all these years and cooks one for herself approximately once a week. And she has no intention of giving up lobstering anytime soon.
“I enjoy doing it, and I enjoy being near the water,” she explained. “So I’m going to keep doing it for as long as I can.”