Nothing says summer in New England quite like a lobster roll. And with all due respect to Connecticut’s warm, buttered approach, Maine’s version of the iconic seafood sandwich — toasted bun, cold lobster, a little bit of mayo, like they do here at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, one of our favorite spots — is just that: iconic. That’s because lobster is basically Maine’s state mascot. They catch more of them here than they do anywhere else in the country, and it defines the cuisine. But lobster is more than just food in Maine; it also powers the commercial fishing industry raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in lobsters harvested each year. To celebrate Maine’s tastiest natural resource, we headed North to pull pots with lifelong lobstermen, eat rolls with award-winning restaurant owners, and check in with marine biologists who are doing everything they can to safeguard Maine’s lobsters against rising ocean temperatures. It’s a story about Maine, people, and the crimson crustacean that pulls them all together. In other words, a lobster tale. (I’m really starting to hate these.) -My name is Sonny Beal, I’m a lifetime lobsterman, I’ve been lobstering since I was 12. We’re here on my wharf in Beals Island. It’s an island off the coast of Maine, “down east” Maine, about halfway between Bar Harbor and Canada. I grew up lobstering with my father, pretty much since I was old enough to put a pair of boots on I was aboard the boat. My grandfather was a lobster fisherman, so I’m third generation. I have two sons: Damon, he’s twelve and Kaden, he’s soon to be ten. I got them into lobstering very early. Here in Maine you can get your lobster license when you’re eight years old. They’ve been fishing long before that. You know, the Gulf of Maine is our aquarium and as long as we take care of it we will have a viable resource to get us through. We’ll bait up the day before, I pull the trap up, pull the trap in on the boat, take out the lobsters. We measure them from the eye socket to the back of the carapace. If they’re legal we band them; if they’re not legal we discharge them immediately overboard so they can go back to the bottom and keep living. The female lobsters that produce eggs we will cut a “V” in one of the flippers and that makes it illegal to possess that female lobster whether it has eggs or not. So we have to put them back back in the ocean so that she can reproduce. In coastal Maine, you grow up with salt in your veins, you know. You’re born and bred into it, it’s the greatest job in the world. I think it’s really neat that something that I catch off my boat and bring into Beals Island and sell you know, to the dock, a lot of them stay right here in Maine, you know they go to the fancy restaurants, but the local seaside mom and pop takeout shacks, thats where it’s at. That’s where it’s natural. -My name is Steve Kingston, we’re at The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, Maine. The market is one of the oldest, continually operated seafood markets in Maine. We’ve been serving people lobsters and seafood out of this place since 1938. Through my close relationship with local guys, I’ve been able to get the lobsters that I need and I want. It was just the natural place too for a phenomenal sandwich to grow out of live lobsters, great water, fresh picked lobster meat, every single day, every hour, throw it into a sandwich and we’ve done quite well with it. It’s an amazing symbol for our state, and it’s a delicacy to a lot of people. One of the really unique things about the lobster meat that we produce, is that we are cooking these lobsters in the very water that they live in, in their habitat. Salt water from the Gulf of Maine, that’s when we snatch it up bring it in and put it into our tanks. The lobsters absolutely thrive in it and then we use that same water to cook these guys. It’s like the ultimate natural seasoning for a lobster – the salty, salty water, it becomes somewhat of a broth as the day goes on. I’m absolutely really passionate about it. I mean, this thing is sustainable, it’s mysterious, it’s still harvested by hand, the guys who do this are total badasses. I’m not a chef, I’m just a poor, dumb fry cook. And, that used to go over before we were selling 500 lobster rolls a day. Now no one believes me, but it’s still, that’s where my roots are. It’s humble food, it’s simple food. But it’s a delicacy. -So we’ve seen them caught, we’ve seen them shucked, and we’ve eaten a bunch of them. But now we’re gonna go meet someone who’s been working and studying on maintaining Maine’s lobster population for the next generation. Let’s go to Darling. -I’m Bob Steneck, I’m a professor at the University of Maine’s school of Marine Sciences and we are at the Darling Marine Center, which is the marine lab for the University of Maine. I’ve been studying lobsters for over 30 years. It’s anything but stable. If we have a hiccup in this fishery, we’ve got an economic problem. Starting in about 1985, we started hitting record landings. So as we’re seeing the ocean warming — and there’s excellent data on this, what’s been going on is as the Gulf of Maine gets warmer, more and more of the sea floor is actually acceptable nursery habitat for baby lobsters, until it gets too warm. They actually produce what we know as “heat-shock proteins,” and there is a reasonable argument that they’re actually compromising their immune system. And when that happens you can have a disease break out. And as a matter of fact, in Rhode Island, 80% of the lobsters died in 1998. Never recovered. And that is linked to warmer temperatures. Nearly 80 percent of all of our marine resource value comes from a single species. We do not have a very diversified portfolio. If anything happens to the lobster, we’re in trouble. I also point out that we may have only 1.2 million people, but we have 3.5 million lobster traps. So this is serious because we don’t have a plan B. The very fact that we have working waterfronts with a lot of lobster boats in these harbors is because this has become an increasingly valuable species. 20 years ago, all they did was biology. You know, you wanted to figure out how larvae developed, and we can do that now under a microscope. Now we realized that humans are part of this ecosystem. And how do you deal with all that? It’s not just the biology, it’s the people who depend on them. So, there’s no shortage of things to study. And there’s no shortage of a lot of concerned people who have a lot invested in the coast of Maine.