January marks the start of a fresh new year, and the first month of our 2018 Lobster Ladies Calendar. Come here each month for a full interview with each of the women who in our opinion are the unsung heroes of the lobster industry. We created this calendar in order to support Maine's coastal communities and showcase the real women behind them, and 100% of proceeds will be donated to the Maine Lobstermen's Community Alliance. Buy your calendar here today.
What is your name and where are you from?
Beatrice Amuso, Islesford, ME.
What grade are you in?
I’m in 9th grade, in my first year of high school.
How does it feel to be the first Lobster Lady of the year in our calendar?
I feel very honored and think that’s so cool!
Have you always lived in Maine? If not, how did you get there?
I have lived on Islesford since I was 6 years old. My family moved here from Upstate NY.
What’s the thing you love most about Cranberry Island/the town you live?
How there is more freedom, and it is like one big extended family.
Tell me about a typical day in your life… how does your day start, how does it end, what happens in between (tell us as much as you like)?
In the summer I live with my family on Islesford. I get up between 5 and 6 am to go fishing on Stefanie’s boat F/V Ashley and Lucy. We work hauling and setting traps til early afternoon. If Stefanie has a tour, then we will break just before that is scheduled so we can get ready for it. I help her with the talks; some of the groups remember me from previous years and will ask if I am still on the boat to make sure that I am there when they are. Depending on the schedule we would get ready for the next haul. When I am not sterning for Stefanie, I also fish my own traps, or help my brother Xander with his traps. I also love to ride horses and hang out with my friends, we jump off the dock, ride bikes, play basketball and soccer. Some days I work with my mom or dad.
What are the boat tours with Stefanie like?
We would hold tours on the boat and hold the traps with people on the boat so they can experience it as we do. I would go on the boat with them sometimes and we do talks as well when the boat is at the dock and people come on the boat and listen to what we’re doing. We talk about our experiences on the boat and what we do.
At what age did you get started lobstering and what attracted you to it?
I started lobstering at 8 years old. It all started one night when my father and brother were talking about how when my brother turns 8 he could start lobstering, and I said well, what about me? I wanted to fish with a female lobsterwoman so I decided to call up Stephanie. She lived on the island so I knew her a little bit, and since then I’ve gotten to know her a lot better. Stefanie was and still is the only female captain on the island, so naturally, I went to her. She already had sternmen on her boat, and I was the third since I was so young. She’s always had female sternmen since I’ve been on the boat and I think before me too. She and I have been together ever since. My younger brother is lobstering now too, he has his own traps and he works with another lobsterman.
What were your responsibilities on the boat when you started at age 8?
When I was 8 I was just baiting the bags. It was a good job and I loved being on the boat, but now I get to carry the traps around and band the lobsters and do a little bit more work than I did before. When I was 8 the traps weighed more than I did so it was kind of hard. I get my traps mostly from fisherman that handed them down to us, then we fix them us and use them, or they can already be perfectly fine traps.
What is your favorite part about lobstering?
I’ve always loved being out on the water because I was working with Stefanie. I love the experience, I love how much knowledge she’s given me. The water is just so calming and it’s such a different world. I love seeing the animals that come up in the traps and getting to see those as well.
What other animals do you find in the traps?
We’ll catch sea urchins, sea cucumbers, snails, hermit crabs, there’s even sometimes a live fish in there as well. There’s a fish that we can use for bait that sometimes comes in, a sculpin, we use those for bait on the boat. We can’t take any other ones home to eat, but we can use them for Stefanie’s shows, and then we release them back into the water. The sea cucumber has 8 or so rows of tentacles that they use to roll around the ocean, they kind of do look like a cucumber but they’re slimy, and they use their mouth to catch plankton. I haven’t eaten sea urchin but I’d like to!
What do you like most about working with Stefanie? Do you ever see her when you’re not on the water?
BA: We see each other around the community; there’s sometimes community events that I see her at as well. I love just how supportive she is on the boat, we all look out for each other as you have to, but I love her. She’s an amazing role model.
When will you be getting back out on the water now that you’re in school?
BA: When Stefanie puts her boat out, around March or April. I try to go on weekends. Last year I was homeschooled so I had a lot more freedom with my schedule, but I’ll start again when she puts her boat in the water. Last year there would be days where I would go out early in the morning on the boat and then do school work. When we got home I would chill for a little bit and then do homework. We would go out in the morning around 6 or 6:30 am. I’ve gotten to be very much a morning person. Once school is out in June, I’m probably out on the boat 3-4 days a week, depending if we get all of our traps in. We’re living in Northeast Harbor now, and the high school is on Mt. Desert so it’s just a couple of miles away.
Do you think you will continue lobstering after high school?
I would like to. I want to see where everything takes me.
Do any of your friends lobster at school?
One of my friends Ashley, who lives right down the road, she does lobster as well as her sister. We talk about it sometimes but we’re not competitive about it.
What event/moment had the most influence on you/your job/the industry?
When Stefanie took a chance on an 8 year old girl and took me on as her apprentice. It was a big risk, and she believed in me. She showed me the ropes, and treated me like family. I always felt safe with her on the boat, and love the times we spent. It wasn’t always just work, we have fun too!
If you had a chance to meet somebody, who might that be, and why?
The queen of England. She just seems so cool and a nice person to meet. I’m also a Prince Harry fan.
How do you balance school/academic work, your lobstering work and personal life, what are some tips or tricks you use to balance them both?
I try to keep things in perspective. School is my number one priority. That is my job, to do well at school. After that I have a responsibility to people that I have made commitments to to follow through on them, whether it is personal or working lobstering, or taking care of myself. You have to realize what you can do, what you should do, and what you have to say no to. It isn’t always fun, but it is my responsibility.
What, if any, is the biggest challenge you face as a female in the industry?
I don’t face any challenges, I have always been treated as an equal. I am expected to do the same work.
What would you change about your work/the industry, and why?
I would make the bait smell better. Although once you get used to it, you really don’t smell it any more.
Do you see yourself lobstering for a career in the future?
I am not currently thinking of lobstering as my career, but feel that I will always have a love for the industry and will always be a part of it. I would like to work with marine animals, and feel that the things that I have learned out on the water will be instrumental and a positive educational aid.
What do you think you want to do with marine animals in the future?
I love working with the marine system and animals in general, so I was thinking about marine biology or marine studies. I think that’d be really fun.
Are there classes in school that you can take to learn more about marine biology?
There isn’t a marine biology class but there’s a biology class. I’m not currently taking it but I’d like to next year. Now I’m taking geography, algebra, music, and art class, but music is my favorite. I started playing the clarinet since September and recently had our winter concert.
What do you see on the horizon for Maine and lobster?
That Maine will be a leader in the conservation of this resource. The fishermen really care and understand that we need to preserve it for future generations. I think Maine has a really good population that does lobster, I think Maine has potential to lots of lobstering in the future.
What's the next skill or knowledge set you want to learn, and why?
I want to learn how to Scuba Dive so that I can see what is in the ocean, to explore it more. I think it would be cool to see under the water. I would love to see coral and colorful fish that live around the coral.
Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service/M.Yarborough
What’s your favorite weekend activity, and why?
Hanging out with my family. We are just so close, I really love them.
Do you have any time to watch TV or movies in your busy schedule?
I have some time at night. I’ve recently been watching this old show called MASH. I love watching it on the weekdays, it’s on every weeknight at 7 on our TV channel. I’ve been watching a lot of Christmas movies and I really like The Polar Express, I’ve watched that so many times.
What's your favorite funny story from the boat?
We always play games on the boat, like little word games. Stefanie has a sternman who’s in college that I play word games and who also lives on the island with Stefanie. We talk about what fish eat for dinner and joke around.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know.
I am ranked 11th in the state for 7-8th grade girls in discus. The indoor track, which I’m doing currently this winter doesn’t have indoor discuss, they only have shotput but I’m planning on doing discus again in the spring. Now I’m doing relay and sprinting events. I love being active and I love running and sports. I’ve been running since second or third grade.
List three misconceptions that people often have about you/the lobster industry/Maine? And why do you think they exist?
That women can’t work in the industry. It’s a tough job, no doubt about it. You really have to want to be there.
What is your favorite way to prepare/eat lobster, and why?
Garlic and butter, soft shell lobsters always. Steamed of course. I try to help my parents; I’ll take the bands off and put it in the steamer. I really love when my mom makes the lobster rolls. She makes the classic Maine lobster roll. My mom freezes some of the lobster that we catch in the summertime in milk and we make seafood chowder in the wintertime. We add scallops, crabs, and any leftover seafood that we find in the freezer. A fisherman’s wife told me that it’s the best way to preserve lobsters, and the meat can be preserved for a year.
Do you get to take home lobster often?
Since I only set 10 of my own traps I didn’t get much lobster, so we didn’t sell to the co-op, and were able to them home. When my brother does his traps sometimes he’ll take a couple home but he’ll also sell to the co-op as well. I’ll probably have around 10 again next year but I’m able to have 150 traps. I get so busy, and since I’m hauling them by hand (we don’t have an electronic hauler), I stick to just 10, as awesome as it would be to have 150, I think 10 is easier.
What was the last thing that made you laugh so hard you nearly peed your pants?
My brother Xander and all his silly antics, he is my best friend. He always makes me laugh.
Best compliment you've ever received?
“Great work, I really appreciate your talents, thank you!”
If you had a superhero power, what would it be and why?
To shape shift into different animals, so that I could have each of their powers….. Flight, swimming, running fast. Some people say they want to be able to fly or run really fast. Why do that when you can change into anything you want and do the same thing?
Do you have a favorite animal?
I love elephants. I have two dogs, one 9-year-old yellow lab and one 10 month old black lab, named Lucy and Anchor. We also have 2 cats and 2 rats who are mother and daughter, named Piper and Raven. I got to name the first one, then she had 12 kids that we weren’t expecting. Luckily the cats don’t bother the rats, they just kind of acknowledge that they’re there.
What’s your dream place to travel to?
I’d like to see the world in general; I’d like to see a part of Europe too.
Do you have a favorite thing about January?
My mom’s birthday is January 4! We go sledding here and there’s an ice skating pond on the island.
Do you have any New Year Resolutions?
To learn lots of new ways about life and what the future brings, I can’t wait for that! Just in general to learn new things.
Do you have any big wishes for 2018?
I guess to see something I haven’t seen before and experience it and explore it.