Stonington is Maine’s largest lobster port: each year the town’s more than 350 fishing boats account for the catch between 10-15% of the state’s lobster landings — between 6 and 8 million pounds. Lobsters contribute $200-$300 million each year to the island’s economy.
Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries is a stop on the Downeast Fisheries Trail, a series of fisheries-related sites stretching from Penobscot Bay to Cobscook Bay. The trail connects historic and active fisheries that illustrate the region’s maritime heritage, culture and economy.
Over the last fifty years Stonington fishermen have fished for scallops, Northern shrimp, groundfish, crab, mussels, tuna, hagfish, urchins, sea cucumbers, soft-shell clams, halibut and many other species. Traditionally fishermen fished for two or three species a year at different seasons. About twenty years ago, groundfish in the eastern Gulf of Maine became depleted, and fishermen turned to lobstering more year-round, sustained by a very strong lobster population. The result is that Stonington’s fishing economy is now heavily dependent on lobster. As always, fishing is a dynamic business, driven by changes in both ecology and economy.
Soft-shell clamming on the island contributes over $1 million to the economy and is supported by an island-wide shellfish ordinance: Diggers do conservation time and re-seeding; volunteers take water samples to contribute to the public health and safety work by the State.
Stonington was a granite boom town in the 1890s and even now has several active granite quarries. Fishing has long-since replaced granite as the primary business, however the town serves as the port for fishermen from the rest of Deer Isle as well as from mainland towns on the Blue Hill Peninsula. Fishing and granite are complemented by an active artistic economy. Many artists have settled here after coming to Deer Isle to attend Haystack Mountain School of Arts or perform at Opera House Arts. The result is an independent, self-employed, and creative community bolstered by a wide and deep set of organizations and churches that provide an exceptional support system for the Stonington community.