While searching the “lobster fisherman” hashtag on Instagram, I found Emily. Her photos beautifully capture a lobster fishery in Maine, completely different from Chris’ fishery here in Santa Barbara. Plus, the shots she takes of her partner in action really got me right here. (Pointing to heart.)
Of course, I wanted to know how she deals with the POCF lifestyle, and Emily was kind to oblige! So when I read her answers and saw she was 19, I thought, How sweet. Let’s see what the youngin’ has to say. Then I kept reading and was like, Damn, girl! You know what’s up! Particularly, for the passage that starts with:
“After a long day of working on the boat together, my job as his sternman is done – but my job as a POCF has only begun.” Ok. We’re listening.
Without further ado, meet Emily.
19 Yr-Old POCF Emily Cunningham Drops Knowledge Like She’s 91
What is your name, how old are you, and where are you from?
My name is Emily. I am 19 years old and originally from central Pennsylvania.
What is your fisherman’s name, where & what does he fish, what is the name of his boat?
My partner’s name is Marshall. We fish for North American lobster out of the F/V Josephine Reagan from Swan’s Island, Maine.
How long have you been together?
We have been together for 3 happy years.
On your Instagram, it says you’re a sternman. What do you do on the boat?
Marshall is the owner and operator of the Josephine Reagan, and I am his sternman (known more commonly in other fisheries as a deckhand). I mostly manage the bait for the lobster traps and band the lobsters we catch. I also do things like keep the boat tidy, count and sort the lobsters, clean seaweed off the buoys, repair broken traps, and clean the boat when we’re all done. I do anything that makes our work on the water faster, easier, and safer.
What was the biggest surprise to you when you first got into this lifestyle?
What surprised me most about working in the commercial fishing industry with my partner is how it is simultaneously dangerous and safe. It’s dangerous in the sense that so many things can go wrong – we can fall off the boat overboard, or get hung up on a rope and pulled overboard, we can drown or get hypothermic or both, or the boat can capsize, or hit something in the water and sink, or catch on fire, etc.
What does being a POCF mean to you?
While I love working on the boat with my partner and sharing his job, I think it’s SO important as a POCF that I also (step away) from work for him.
After a long day of working on the boat together, my job as his sternman is done – but my job as a POCF has only begun. I go home, I shower, I get cleaned up and looking nice, and then I spend the rest of the evening with my partner – serving him dinner, talking with him if he wishes, or just being present in silence with him if he prefers that instead. Commercial fishing is a tough, stressful job, so I try my best to be the opposite of that. Being a supportive and compliant POCF is so important to his success because it gives him a reason to want to be successful.
How can others support our domestic seafood market?
The answer to this is simple: Eat Seafood! But the application of the answer is trickier than you might expect.
Most of the seafood sold in grocery stores (especially in places not on the coast) is illegally and unsustainably harvested in foreign countries. Stores sell it because it is cheaper to get than legal and sustainable American seafood. If you’d like to support our industry, pay a few extra pennies for American-sourced seafood, and when at the coast, support local restaurants that get their seafood fresh from a boat. You’ll likely get it cheaper (and better) there anyway!🐟 Follow Emily Cunningham on Instagram!
Can you relate to Emily? What’s your biggest takeaway from what she said? We loved to know! Please enter your thoughts in the comments below!
Meet another POCF, Jenny Gore Dwyer of Deadliest Catch here!