Everyone talks about building a better mousetrap, but shouldn't Mainers be talking about building a better lobster trap? On May 11th Drink Tank is partnering with local lobstermen, researchers, and makers to think about what it might take to do just that.

As a Maine native I grew up on boats, fishing and dodging lobster buoys. Lobster traps are ubiquitous here, but only recently did I realize how little I understood their mechanics.  Why is a lobster trap designed the way it is, and why has it changed so little over the past 100 years?  I found that once I started asking these questions, I couldn't stop. 

Turns out, there's no shortage of local enthusiasm to bring Mainers together discuss problems and opportunities surrounding lobstering, sustainability and the the Gulf of Maine. Through our discovery process we’ve had the chance to talk and collaborate with people who are shaping the lobstering industry (from Luke’s Lobster, to Nova Seafood, to Ready Seafood, and Lobster from Maine) as well as others who are in Portland connecting people, resources and ideas through organizations like Maine Startup and Create Week, and Treehouse Institute

As a midwesterner, I appreciate Chicago's spirit of collaboration. As a Mainer, I'm happy to have the chance to bring it with me to Portland through our partnership with Goose Island Beer. My hope is that tomorrow’s Drink Tank will bring people from different disciplines together to look at something familiar in a new way, make valuable connections, and learn something in the process. 

If you're still wondering why we're so excited for this #lobsterhack, below is a recap of some of what Annie and I learned over several conversations, beers, and visits to the Portland Waterfront:

Lobster as a Sustainable Practice

We all associate Maine with lobster, but what you might not know is that lobstering employs thousands of Mainers and contributes more than $1 billion to the state’s economy each year. For nearly 150 years the Maine lobster industry and state government have collaborated to conserve and manage this resource.  The Maine lobster fishery adheres to well defined rules, and has successfully self-regulated for multiple generations. The following practices are some of the ways the state and its fishermen have been able to protect lobsters from Maine:

 
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How Does a Lobster Trap Work? Let's Review...

Today, Mainers harvest their lobsters the same careful way they have for more than 125 years — by hand, one trap at a time. Licensed fishermen must use conventional lobster traps (also referred to as "pots") to haul their catch. 

While the trap materials have changed moderately over the years, the trap itself has changed very little. The basic compartmented design continues to attract and catch lobsters. After after reading Maine's regulatory website (so you don't have to) turns out most lobster traps used in Maine’s fishery are constructed of plastic coated wire. They usually have two funneled openings called “heads”, through which lobsters enter the first compartment commonly called the “kitchen”. After feeding, lobsters may venture through the inner funnel or parlor head into the compartment called the “parlor”.

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What are some known industry issues that we might address through design?

 
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