Cannery's Closure Marks End To Way Of Life In Maine
SCOTT SIMON, Host:
Anne Mostue visited on one of the final days of this way of life in coastal Maine.
ANNE MOSTUE: Myrtress Harrington was used to it.
SIMON: (unintelligible) and I've always been a fish packer.
MOSTUE: Harrington is 77 years old, and first started canning sardines at Stinson Seafood when she was 18.
SIMON: I started in '50, but I didn't stay all them years straight steady. I had children in between.
MOSTUE: Harrington wore a hairnet, apron and gloves as she worked on the assembly line, packing the fish into tiny, rectangular cans. Sardines are an oily fish, about four inches long. And before they're processed and canned, they're called herring.
SIMON: Well, I think you have to have a little coordination getting the fish in the cans right. And see, I've worked on cooked fish. And this is raw fish now. Today, I'm putting steaks in the can, little fish steaks. The girl that's packing with me, she does one can and she skips a can, and I do that can. That's the way we do the fish.
MOSTUE: Bumblebee Foods, which owns the cannery, attributes the closing to federal regulations that have reduced the catch limits on Atlantic herring. Al West was a fish buyer for the cannery. He says the herring catch limits are half of what they were six years ago, and the company could no longer produce enough sardines to keep the plant up and running.
SIMON: We've been very successful, and we've weathered a lot of storms. But the reduced quota was one that we had no control over.
MOSTUE: Myrtress Harrington was most concerned about the younger workers.
SIMON: Well, I think we'll all manage. It's going to be harder on the younger people, I think. At my age, I think I can get by. See, I have my Social Security. No, I don't know - I think it's going to be hard but hopefully, they'll have something come in soon.
MOSTUE: For NPR News, I'm Anne Mostue.
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