When it comes to marine issues in Brunswick, Marine Warden Dan Devereaux has a special expertise. He’s in his 18th year on the job, for one thing. And he’s wedded to his work. Case in point: He offered us a 7 a.m. interview slot and sounded quite chipper when we called. If it were summer, he said, he’d usually have been out on the water for a good 30 minutes by that time. “I work weird hours,” he said. “I kind of live this job.” We talked about how he landed the job in the first place and what he’s done with it.

ARRIVAL: Devereaux arrived in Brunswick as a new Navy recruit stationed at the (now-decommissioned) Brunswick Naval Air Station. He grew up in Michigan, the youngest child of 11, and at 18 made the decision that he’d forgo the expense of college in favor of a job that took him places. There were similarities between Michigan and Maine that he found pleasing: “In terms of there being a lot of blue-collar workers and farmers.” His grandfather farmed on 1,000 acres in Michigan, where he milked cows and grew beans and potatoes. “So that connection was there.” During his seven years in the Navy he traveled widely, handling logistics support for equipment, and spent about 18 months in Sicily. Did he pick up any culinary tricks there? “I am a pretty decent cook, but I am not a Sicilian chef.”

NEXT STEP: At the end of seven years, Devereaux had the option of heading to the West Coast for another tour, but having fallen in love with a Brunswick native, he left the military, going to work for the Harpswell Shellfish Commission instead. That’s where his interest in marine sciences began to blossom. “I am not educated in marine biology or the environment per se. I kind of self-taught myself over the years. I am one of those people who want to research and fact-check everything.” And his observations about how things were changing on the coast, even in the 1990s, pushed his drive to learn more. “My investigative self says, if we can gather all the information we can get, we should be able to be smart enough to figure out how we can create new opportunities in the near shore areas.”

POLICING THE WATERS: Devereaux was hired by the Brunswick Police Department in 1997 and transferred to the department’s marine division in 1999. He’s enforcing state and federal marine laws, checking water-quality tests and surveying for pollutants. He’s also the guy who makes sure moorings are registered. But in keeping with what he said was a strong history of progressive marine resource management dating back to the 1970s, his job is definitely not just policing. He staffs the Marine Resources Committee and spends about half his time in an office at the police department handling the paperwork that goes with conservation projects. He also attends environmental and conservation meetings throughout the state. He was just at the Fisherman’s Forum in Rockland. Next up, the Harbor Master’s Association Conference. “March is a busy time for us because we are trying to jam it all in. Because obviously, in the summer we like to be out on the water.”

A sign designating the water near the boat launch as as a shellfish propagation area. Devereaux, the Marine Resources officer and Brunswick harbormaster, is in charge of this and other aquaculture projects as well as educational outreach. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup.

BEAUTY SPOT: Speaking of, what does he consider the premium spot on Brunswick’s 61 miles of shoreline? “My favorite place is probably going to be Simpson’s Point, if I had a place to choose to hang out. Particular at sunset and sunrise, that is a lovely spot in the town. For scenery, Birch Island and the Goslings, that whole stretch of Middle Bay.” But mostly he stays in the boat. “I am not a big saltwater swimmer. Maybe four or five times a year the kids and I will go down and jump in.” He has two sons, one of whom is studying marine biology and, when he’s not in school, interns at Resource Access International, a consulting and laboratory testing company in Brunswick that promotes sustainability in the seafood industry. (Like father, like son.)

SEMANTICS: Working with shellfish harvesters has been a key component of his job. Brunswick has 1,600 acres of intertidal zone, where clam diggers have historically made their livings. (There are currently 57 licensed harvesters.) As he notes, the town of Brunswick’s seal features four characters, including an academic and a man with a clam rake (side note: everyone on the seal is a man). But “everybody knows that the harvests have been decreasing over the years.” The catch has been diminished by factors ranging from warming waters to voracious and invasive green crabs, and Devereaux has encouraged aquaculture, like clam farming, while respecting the longtime heritage of wild harvests. (Speaking of respect, Devereaux uses the descriptor “shellfishermen” instead of clam digger, which he said carries negative connotations in some places. “I know it is just semantics,” but it makes a difference, he said.)

FARMING: As he dug into the idea of clam farming and aquaculture in the intertidal zone, Devereaux traveled to Cape Cod (“Municipal programs are huge down there”) and Washington state, where much of the intertidal aquaculture is privatized. “I came back and said, ‘We can do this in the state of Maine.’ We approached Maine Sea Grant and said, ‘Let’s put on a class.’ ” About 15 shellfishermen showed up to get the basics of clam farming, including planting clam seed in the flats and tending it. “Just so they can feel it and touch it with their hands.” In conjunction, Devereaux started an aquaculture demonstration project at the Mere Point Boat Launch, growing oysters in a system Devereaux based on what he’d learned in Washington, using something that looks like a clothesline with “flip bags” hanging off it, a method that makes the oyster grow more slowly but develop a deeper cup. (Better for slurping out of.) But this isn’t a retail business; it’s an outdoor classroom. “Every time I do this, the fisherman are like, ‘Oh my God, these things are growing’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, they are growing.’ ” That’s music to his ears. “You are trying to change that mentality from the hunter-gather mentality mindset that these guys have to more of a farming mentality. It takes generations to change something like that.”

FULL CIRCLE: His instinct to farm – albeit in the sea – can be traced back to his youth in Michigan. “I grew up outdoors, hunting and fishing for sustenance.” He might not be the greatest gardener, but “I have a passion for just kind of nurturing things in the environment. I am a firm believer in it because you can see the ecological results. It seems like a no-brainer to me.”

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MaryPols