May 23, 2018
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Helping Gulf fishermen

While the oil spill continues to gush and the pundits argue over why President Barack Obama doesn’t do more or whether he is tough enough with BP, some Down East lobstermen have been pondering what to do for their hard-pressed fellow fishermen along the oil-drenched gulf coast.

The Little Cranberry Island lobstermen decided on a money-raising community dinner. Dave Thomas contributed 15 pounds of frozen crabmeat (a side product of his lobstering business). Island women made a variety of crab quiches. Acadia Aqua Farms of Bar Harbor donated 20 pounds of farmed mussels.

For a raffle, Bruce Fernald supplied 10 pounds of live lobsters, Henry Isaacs gave a print, Bill McGuinness gave one of his photographs, Jasmine Samuel baked a cake, and there was a promise of a pie of the winner’s choice. Most of the island people turned out. Cash contributions and the raffle produced a total of $1,915.

Then came the question of how and where to send the money. No fund-distribution expert was available like Kenneth Feinberg, the federal czar who is handing out BP’s $20 billion to victims in Louisiana and Alabama. And their modest amount would seem lost if blended with funds being raised by the big nonprofit charitable organizations.

With the help of an atlas and some Internet research, they selected a small fishing village, not much larger than their Maine village of Islesford on Little Cranberry Island. It is Dulac, La., a community of 2,458 mostly low-income people, two-thirds of them fishermen and their families and 30 percent of them Native Americans of the Houma tribe. It is on the gulf shore, 50 miles southwest of New Orleans.

The chief researcher, Islesford Postmaster Joy Sprague, telephoned Mary Billiot, the Dulac postmaster, for advice on where the money should go. Island people know that the postmaster is a good source of information in any small community. Ms. Billiot suggested the Dulac Community Center, a mission project of the United Methodist Church, which provides help to the entire area. The leading industries are fishing and shrimping, now mostly suspended because of the oil spill. The center welcomed the offer, and that’s where the check is going.

Maine fishermen’s organizations say they know of no other examples of locals extending help to the troubled gulf fishermen. The Islesford group hopes that the idea may catch on and lead to more assistance in this time of need.

A tip: Get the postmasters in touch with each other to determine how to do it.

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