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Being a Lobstermen is a Dangerous Job, And More Women Than Ever Are Signing Up

Working on a lobster boat comes with a ton of challenges, and for women trying to break into the industry, there are even more hoops to jump through. 

Though lobstering has been a male-dominated field. But don’t get it twisted, the title of “Lobstermen” is a gender-neutral term, and as of 2021 15% of lobster licenses are held by women.

In an interview with The Modern Farmer, lobsterman Krista Tripp spoke about the difficulties she faced trying to break into the industry, starting with her own parents. At 18 years old, Tripp’s parents didn’t send in her paperwork to become a boat captain because it was not traditionally a woman’s job. “It’s definitely hard to be a woman in the fishing industry…” says Tripp of her experience, “…when they see a girl doing the same kind of job [as them], it makes them feel less of a man.”

There has been an increased interest in women entering the world of lobster boats since about 2017. In an article written for NPR, Murray Carpenter interviewed Sadie Samuels, who acquired her first student fishing license at the age of seven.

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Image by Joseph Prezioso

Part of the increased interest comes from the fact that catching lobsters is incredibly physically demanding and dangerous at times. When talking with the Modern Farmer, lobsterman Heather Strout Thompson said that she sometimes has to adapt her tasks to get them done. Thompson says that sometimes she has to use her legs to lift the traps out of the water (they can weigh 40-65 pounds each), but she gets the job done, nonetheless. 

Though women have struggled to find their footing in the lobstering industry, perhaps the most famous Maine lobsterman is 103-year-old Virginia “Ginny” Oliver, lovingly known as the Lobster Lady. Oliver began trapping lobsters with her father and brother at eight years old and in June, she renewed her license, marking her 95th lobster season. She and her late husband continued the tradition and now Oliver’s four children are also lobstermen. 
At 103, the Lobster Lady has no plans of retiring. In a 2021 interview, the then 101-year-old Oliver said her favorite thing about working on the boat is “being the boss.”

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