Book details

The Last Lobster

Boom or Bust for Maine's Greatest Fishery?

Author: Christopher White

The Last Lobster

The Last Lobster


About This Book

From the author of Skipjack & The Melting World comes a mystery: the curious boom in America’s beloved lobster industry and its probable crash


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Book Details

From the author of Skipjack & The Melting World comes a mystery: the curious boom in America’s beloved lobster industry and its probable crash

Maine lobstermen have happened upon a bonanza along their rugged, picturesque coast. For the past five years, the lobster population along the coast of Maine has boomed, resulting in a lobster harvest six times the size of the record catch from the 1980s—an event unheard of in fisheries. In a detective story, scientists and fishermen explore various theories for the glut. Leading contenders are a sudden lack of predators and a recent wedge of warming waters, which may disrupt the reproductive cycle, a consequence of climate change.

Christopher White's The Last Lobster follows three lobster captains—Frank, Jason, and Julie (one the few female skippers in Maine)—as they haul and set thousands of traps. Unexpectedly, boom may turn to bust, as the captains must fight a warming ocean, volatile prices, and rough weather to keep their livelihood afloat. The three captains work longer hours, trying to make up in volume what they lack in price. As a result, there are 3 million lobster traps on the bottom of the Gulf of Maine, while Frank, Jason, and others call for a reduction of traps. This may in boost prices. The Maine lobstering towns are among the first American communities to confront global warming, and the survival of the Maine Coast depends upon their efforts.

It may be an uphill battle to create a sustainable catch as high temperatures are already displacing lobsters northward toward Canadian waters—out of reach of American fishermen. The last lobster may be just ahead.

Imprint Publisher

St. Martin's Press



In The News

“Christopher White has beautifully captured both a unique part of the world and a very special slice of Americana, the men and women who people the Maine lobster industry and the remarkable place they call home. With his words he evokes the smell of spruce trees and ocean brine, the sweet flavor of lobsters (and other gifts of the sea), the salty dialect of fishermen and women, and the enchantingly beautiful world they inhabit as they struggle to protect what is theirs.” —Nancy Harmon Jenkins, author of Virgin Territory: Exploring the Worlds of Olive Oil and The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook

“Long Island, where I live, is a few hundred miles south of Maine, where this book is set. My best Long Island friend was for 25 years a lobsterman. A few years after his catches boomed, our waters got too warm for lobsters. Now he’s a nurse in a hospital. No one recorded what happened here; no one saw it coming. Chris White sees these historic changes advancing up the coast, and has hurried to Maine to get it all down as people of the sea are caught in the vortex of change. If a book about warming waters can be chilling—this one is. It is deeply human, tinged with the tragic shadowing of inevitable changes happening in real-time to people and their sea.” — Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean, and Beyond Words

"Just as in Skipjack, where Christopher White wrote so lyrically about water and the men and women who work on it, this is a beautiful and important story, one testifying not only to the remarkable skills and well-earned apprehensions of Maine lobstermen, but to the soul-filling beauty of their world." —Richard Adams Carey, author of Against the Tide: The Fate of New England Fishermen and Philosopher Fish: Sturgeon, Caviar, and the Geography of Desire.

Christopher White weaves an intimate and revealing portrait of the Maine lobster fishery as it wrestles with the uncertain consequences of a changing climate that surely will force a reckoning by all who make their living in the Gulf of Maine. From the early morning dock, out to sea and back, through the marketing chain and onto dinner plates from Maine to China – The Last Lobster is a fascinating and insightful glimpse into one of the most important and threatened fisheries in the United States. —Priscilla M. Brooks, Vice President and Director of Ocean Conservation, Conservation Law Foundation

"In this illuminating volume, White sets out to capture the look and feel of traditional Maine lobster villages [...] White conveys the significance of lobsters to people all over the world in this enjoyable sojourn with the lobster folk."—Publisher's Weekly

"An in-depth look at the state’s most significant fishery [...] Lobsters are intrinsically linked to the soul of Maine, and White’s thoughtful chronicle gives both the highly desired marine crustaceans and the people who seek them their due."—Booklist

"A fascinating and personal study that also provides important ecological and environmental information. For readers who enjoy learning about fisheries and the ecology of the sea."—Library Journal

Praise for Christopher White's Skipjack:

“[An] evocative portrait of the nation's most beautiful and poignant vocational anachronism. It's an action-packed tale, complete with waterborne grudge matches, on-deck shootouts, fierce winter storms and suspenseful escapes. To his great credit, White resists any temptation to romanticize his skipjackers as quaint rustics simply overtaken by a modern world.” —The Washington Post

“Christopher White's Skipjack is not only a powerful elegy for a great American fishery, it's an act of defiance against all that has conspired to empty the dredges of these beautiful boats. White's prose is like the oystermen he portrays: tough, lyrical, and soaked to the bone in the waters of Chesapeake Bay. I've still got a lump in my throat from its last page.” —Richard Adams Carey, Against the Tide: The Fate of New England Fishermen and the Philosopher Fish

“Christopher White's Skipjack, which chronicles the Chesapeake life history and impending death of our nation's last fishery under sail, is a colorful, comprehensive, and valuable piece of Americana” —Peter Matthiessen

“The world has almost run out of fish, as modern technology strips our oceans bare. Christopher White's Skipjack is a compelling story about how the wisdom of the past can help us protect the future of our fisheries. If you savor seafood, White's chronicle of the gritty life aboard America's last sailboat fishing fleet is a tale you need to hear.” —Trevor Corson, The Secret Life of Lobsters and The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi

“Men who take their livings from the sea have their own language to reinforce kinship and keep strangers at bay. Only rarely is an outsider accepted into their inner circle, and then only when he knows how to listen and is willing to work. Even more rarely does such an adopted son capture the cadenced ebb and flow of watermen's speech. Herman Melville did it for New England whalers: Christopher White has now done it for the oystermen of Maryland's Eastern Shore. Just as Melville documented something greater than a whale hunt, White's account helps us understand how much all our lives will be diminished when the last oyster drudger sailed in from the Chesapeake… Skipjack is a masterpiece.” —George Reiger, author of Wanderer on My Native Shore

“Well written, and carefully researched … . Chris White's brilliant use of the waterman's vernacular and his intimate knowledge of multiple generations of watermen combine to make this an excellent treatise on a culture that is clearly disappearing.” —Gilbert M. Grosvenor, former editor and Chairman of National Geographic Society

Praise for Christopher White's The Melting World:
"[A] moving story emerges. It's a fascinating outdoor adventure, an illuminating look into the science of a melting mountain--a fresh warning that the warming world is already here." —New York Times Book Review

About the Creators

The Last Lobster

The Last Lobster