Long May They Run

Just a few months into 2010, the Year of the Sardine, news came that the Stinson Seafood plant in Prospect Harbor—the last sardine cannery in the United States—was closing. The sardine song became a requiem; the herring hymn an elegy that carried across the continent, across the Atlantic, and up Penobscot Bay, where I heard it, too.

sardine comic book cover

Maine Sardine Council’s “Rickie and Debbie in Sardineland,” circa 1980s.

When Bumble Bee Foods announced closure of Stinson Seafood, I knew I would have to write a sardine story. As I dipped into my files, and the records of my predecessors at Sea Grant, I found a surplus of sardine stories and lore. Sardine obsession wasn’t a new thing.

I found black and white photos and graphic art, recipes and promotional material—including a comic book from the Maine Sardine Council.  Newspaper clippings, fact sheets, and memoirs.

I wasn’t the only one trying to craft the obituary of an industry and a way of life. Reporters from The New York Times and the Associated Press found their way to the Schoodic Peninsula, to document the fishy smell and conveyor belt maze of a real-life American factory with real-life American workers.

Could I possibly find anything new to say about the “Flavor of Maine,” after all the fish were gone and the last sardine cannery had shuttered?

Read the full article from Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine.

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