STONINGTON — Sixteen years ago, Ted Ames, his wife, Robin Alden, Ted Hoskins and a handful of other members of a group called the Stonington Fisheries Alliance banded together to establish the Penobscot East Resource Center with an eye toward encouraging Maine fishermen to become active in the management of their fisheries.
Last week, a dozen or so current and former staff members of what is now the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, representatives of both Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Angus King and assorted friends and family gathered at the center’s offices overlooking Stonington Harbor to toast Ames on his retirement from the organization’s board of directors.
It’s hard to think of another fisherman who has had as wide an influence on the public’s perception of Maine’s fisheries, or a greater impact on the way the fisheries are managed.
In 2005, Ames was one of 25 recipients of a so-called “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. A year later, he was the subject of an extensive profile in the New Yorker.
Those accolades were the fruits of Ames’ scholarly study and passionate advocacy for Maine’s fisheries that define the mission for the organization he, Alden, Hoskins and others created.
Ames’ interest in the fisheries grew naturally from his background. Members of the Ames family fished from Vinalhaven, Stonington and Matinicus Island for generations. Ames himself started fishing after graduating from high school and a stint in the Navy.
Until age and serious back problems forced him to quit a couple of years ago, he did just about every kind of fishing possible off the coast of Maine: dragging for groundfish and scallops; gillnetting; trawling for shrimp; and of course, lobstering.
He took enough time off to get a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Maine and, for several years, taught school on Mount Desert Island and lectured at the university, but the lure of fishing remained overpowering.
He returned to Stonington and fishing, eventually met and married Alden and, around 1990, came ashore and became deeply involved in the study of why cod had disappeared from the waters around Maine, talking with older fishermen who remembered when and where a vital inshore fishery existed.
His work ultimately led to the creation of the fisheries center and, more or less simultaneously, the founding of the Lobster Management Zone C lobster hatchery project.
As staff members and guests raised a toast on his retirement, Ames reflected that the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, was “not a pipe dream as it was described 20 years ago,” but rather had grown to a vital organization now with a staff of a dozen.
“I enjoyed doing it, but it’s time to step aside,” he said.
His decision drew accolades not just from friends and colleagues in Stonington but also from farther afield.
Sen. Susan Collins sent a “Dear Ted” letter, delivered in hand by her senior Maine staffer Carol Woodcock, that praised Ames for his contributions as Coastal Center “board member, scientist, educator and avid fisherman” who “demonstrated a deep commitment to our ocean resources and industries.”
On Jan. 15, Sen. Angus King took the time to read a “Tribute to Ted Ames” into the Congressional Record and sent a leather-bound copy to be delivered in hand by his regional representative, Chris Rector. On the copy, the former governor wrote, “Ted — you are a leader, an inspiration, and a great friend. Congratulations and thanks.”