The Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-operative was founded in 1978 to allow local lobstermen to have better control over their business interests. Thirty five years later, it is a thriving business that not only supports the island on which it is located , but also surrounding communities. Our Co-op members are also Co-op owners. All of us are a part of the island community.
Lobstering is not just a living for us; it is also a way of life. We are part of the proud history of conservation and stewardship in the State of Maine lobster fishery. Taking care of our resource now means that we can protect it for our children and grandchildren. We were among those who worked to create the maximum and minimum landing size for lobster, to protect egg-bearing females, and to create trap limits in our fishing waters.
At the Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-op, we are your harvesters and are proud to bring the best product possible to your table. By purchasing our product, you are making a difference to the lobstermen who work out of our Co-op. We take great pride in our Maine heritage and traditions that have been passed down through many generations.
Little Cranberry Island is home to 75 people year round and is about a square mile in area. There is a small 2 room K-8 schoolhouse on the island that has students from both Little Cranberry and Great Cranberry. Sustainable fisheries are an integral part of the past, present, and future of the island community.
Named for the small tart berries that grow wild on the island, Little Cranberry Island (Islesford) is home to the Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-op. It is part of the five island archipelago that creates the Town of Cranberry Isles and one of two islands in the town (the other is neighboring Great Cranberry Island) that supports a thriving year round community.
LCI is about a square mile with a year round population of about 75. The islands were settled in the 1700s by people following the ever-elusive cod and unsettled land. Original settlers were Hadlocks and Stanleys. The islands have maintained a population for over 300 years and still support a strong lobster fishery.
Out of the 75 island residents, 22 residents hold a lobster license. The majority of these people take a crew with them while fishing. Almost a third of the island residents are directly employed in the lobster fishery. An interest in fishing begins at a young age in a community where lobstering is so important.
Island children have been known to begin fishing with a student license and five traps while still attending the island kindergarten through 8th grade school. They would rush out of the school at the end of the day to go see what their traps had in store for them.
While four of the five islands in the town used to have schools, the Town of Cranberry Isles now has one school open on Little Cranberry Island which accommodates students from Great Cranberry as well.
On Little Cranberry is the small historical museum that was founded by one of the former summer residents that is now owned and operated by Acadia National Park. Fisheries, especially the lobster fishery, have long been the backbone of the community’s economic engine. Island lobstermen have been known to diversify into other economic activities.
This includes the expected carpentry, care-taking, and lobster delivery, and the less-expected professions of poet and artist. Maine lobstermen, including island lobstermen, have a strong sense of conservation and stewardship of the resource.
Maine lobstermen have pushed for more conservation efforts than almost any other fishery in the world. It has been due in part to these efforts that the lobster fishery has enjoyed the success that it has in recent years. Lobstermen have been behind the push to have both minimum and maximum size limits on lobsters landed in the state of Maine, protection for egg-bearing females, and the current trap limits.
For the lobstermen of Little Cranberry, protecting the resource and access to the resource is not just about protecting their future. It is about maintaining a historical fishing settlement and protecting the ability of future generations to fish the same waters that surround the island. As of 2013, the Maine lobster fishery has received certification from the Marine Stewardship Council as a sustainable fishery.
The Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-Op was founded in 1978 in the tradition of the Maine Lobster Co-Operatives. The local lobstermen, at that point comprised of established year round fishing families and newcomers to year round life on the island. The newcomers had obtained licenses, bought boats, and were creating a life on the island.
A new generation of stewardship for the community had begun. After many previous discussions about their ability to have a voice in their business interests, the local lobstermen were presented with the opportunity to buy the dock where they had previously bought fuel and supplies and sold their catch at the end of the day. They decided to take the opportunity and formed the Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-operative.
Thirty five years later, the Co-Op and its members are still flourishing. There are 26 current members and they range in age from 18 to 82. Some members live within the Town of Cranberry Isles and others were in surrounding towns on neighboring Mount Desert Island. Some of these members are the latest in the lines of a multi-generational fishing family while others are just starting their multi-generational fishing families.
Many of our captains and crews are direct descendents of the first families to settle the Cranberry Isles. Those early settlers were farmers/fisherman who became masters of their own sailing vessels that plied the oceans of the world delivering cargo to the seaports of the world. Co-Op members and crews are heavily involved in all aspects of island life and the community. Some members serve as volunteer fire fighters. Others are state certified fire fighters 1 and 2, and EMTs.
Others serve on various town positions and on different town boards. Co-op member are the fathers, sons, mothers, and daughters of the community. The Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-Operative has helped not only to protect the business interests of island lobstermen, but also to ensure a vibrant and thriving year-round community.