Friday August 16, 2013 | 08:56 AM
Posted by Harold Johnson

This was beautiful Curtis Cove this past Sunday, just before sundown.

This was also Curtis Cove this past Sunday.

If you’re thinking, “a square foot of seaweed washed in... great,” look closer. (Click and zoom in.)

Those are all bits of dead lobster traps. They wash in every week, and can be found among the more-pulverized bands of wrack.

According to information gotten in 2012 from the Department of Marine Resources, Maine lobstermen lose at least 38,000 vinyl-coated steel lobster traps to the Gulf of Maine seafloor each year. In a generation that’s nearly 1 million traps lost at sea.

A few are recovered. Most aren’t.

Eventually, on the seafloor, the steel rusts. It bubbles and bulges, bursting the vinyl and setting little scraps of it free. The vinyl doesn’t rust, doesn’t decay. It just grows. And grows.

In the past year and a half, I’ve collected over 8,000 pieces of lobster trap vinyl scraps from one small part of this one small cove. Most ½” to 1” long.

Bright, colorful, and perfect pickings for the endangered migratory birds that use Curtis Cove as a peaceful stopoff on their long journeys.

8,000 pieces, and counting. For the record, that would re-create about 5-6 lobster traps.*

On most beaches, the wave energy isn’t right to bring this debris to the shore. Out of sight, out of mind. Not so at Curtis Cove. Here, anyone who visits can see it. Often hundreds more of it by the week.

All from just one generation of a plasticized industry.

There are no words for what’s happening to the Gulf of Maine and its shores. Right under our noses.

And maybe that’s good. What would we say if there were? And who would we say it to?


* That’s about as many as are lost every hour in Maine’s waters.

About this Blog

Subscribe to
Undercurrents RSS

About the Author

Visiting a Maine beach in March 2010, Harold Johnson was shocked by the ocean-borne debris left by recent storms. He grabbed a garbage bag and a camera, and hasn’t looked back.

Since then he has spent most of his free time studying marine pollution, coastal ecosystems, and the mysteries and science of ocean and shore.

Copyeditor and writer by trade, historian and archaeologist at heart, Johnson’s philosophy is simple: Dig below the surface, travel the currents, make the connections, learn. Then share what you learn. He lives in Saco with his wife and young daughter. Follow on Twitter @FlotsamDiaries.

Previous entries

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013


September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)
Prefer to respond privately? Email us here.