Solar Brings “Old School to New School” for Family Run Lobster Fishing Business
"Under the Sun" Solar Blog | September 29, 2020 | Posted by Fred Greenhalgh
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The quintessential Maine trade of lobstering is balanced by tradition on the one hand, and adaptations to a changing world on the other. On the one – lobster traps haven’t fundamentally changed in design since the conversion from wood to metal traps in the 1980s, nor have the practices of lobstering itself. On the other – changes to world markets, government regulations, and ocean temperature shape the future of the industry.
Brooks Trap Mills, with locations from Thomaston, ME to Wakefield, RI, is now in its third-generation of family ownership, which has followed a journey much like the trade itself. Many updates have been incremental – changing over from fabricating wooden to metal traps, offering new supplies as regulations change – but the fundamentals of the business are old school: driven by word of mouth and human relationships. Their core ethos that “happy customers will keep coming back to do business with us in the future” has built a resilient business that now serves fisherman across New England.
It’s from this concept of building relationships that the business first discovered solar. “My brother Stephen heard about another business going solar in the area,” says Julie Brooks, one of three siblings who manages the business. “We did some investigation, and we were excited to find that between government incentives, grants, and energy savings, we could save significantly vs. paying CMP. So far in the first year we’ve saved over $10,000 on electricity bills.”
Going Solar Smooth in Fast-Paced Business
In a fast-paced manufacturing environment it can be intimidating to install a major capital project during the busy season. But working with ReVision Energy’s crew was a completely smooth process, according to brother Mark Brooks. “The crew was so professional and low-impact — I hate to say it — but no one even noticed it going up,” Mark says, “It’s uncommon you have a major construction project that’s so easy.”
While the impact to operations was minimal, the impact to customers has been powerful. When the Brooks family posted news about going solar to the Facebook followers, many comments poured in enthusiastically supporting the project, with one commentor excited to see how “The old school has gone new school.”
Energy savings provided by solar are even more important in a time when the lobster business has been dramatically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. “Back in March, the price for lobster dropped and it wasn’t clear whether it would be worth going out,” says Mark, “Luckily, thanks to a strong domestic market, the price of lobster has rebounded and has made it worth it for fisherman to keep working.”
The lobster fishery is widely cited as one of the most sustainable on the planet, in large part due to self-regulation from the fisherman themselves. This includes measures such as limiting the number of lobster fishing licenses issued, limiting the number of traps per fisherman, and restrictions on the size of lobsters harvested. These measures have kept the population healthy even when many fisheries globally are in peril.
Another sustainable fishery that Brooks Mills supports is that of oyster-farming. “Oyster farming has been around for decades, but interest has jumped a whole lot,” Mark says, “It’s clean, the interest is there, and it adds some important diversity for our business.”
Planning for the long-haul while also remembering to enjoy the short summer season is a big part of New England culture, and lobstering in particular. With the partnership with ReVision, Brooks Trap Mill is happy to have another partner supporting the future of this iconic Maine industry.