Local lobsterman Walter Dunton Sr., seen above aboard Stingray, fished for nearly 70 years in Frenchman Bay. PHOTO COURTESY OF LESLIE DUNTON

Lost at sea: MDI lobster trap tag found in England



BAR HARBOR — Three thousand miles, one billion Facebook users and a few clicks of the mouse later, a local lobster tag that washed up on British soil was traced back to its original owner.

Several months ago, Phil Ellery of Saint Columb Major, Cornwall, U.K., an avid beach comber, picked up an orange lobster trap tag on Mawgan Porth beach in Cornwall.

“I beachcomb a lot, and I found lobster tags before. Most have just serial numbers,” Ellery said by text message from the U.K.

He had come across Maine lobster tags before, so he knew what he was looking at. But unlike most lobster tags and other found items, this one had a very obvious clue about to whom it once belonged.

This orange lobster tag made a nearly 3,000-mile journey from Frenchman Bay to a beach in Cornwall, U.K. Phil Ellery, the tag’s finder, used Facebook to connect the trap tag to its original owner all the way in Salisbury Cove. PHOTO COURTESY OF PHIL ELLERY

This orange lobster tag made a nearly 3,000-mile journey from Frenchman Bay to a beach in Cornwall, U.K. Phil Ellery, the tag’s finder, used Facebook to connect the trap tag to its original owner all the way in Salisbury Cove. PHOTO COURTESY OF PHIL ELLERY

“I was sure that this one was [a lobster tag], but I could see there was a name on it,” Ellery said. “I’m on several beachcomber Facebook pages and someone posted one almost identical. It was a distinctive orange rectangle shape and had the same wording but a different name on it.”

The name “W.R. Dunton” and the tag number 406 are imprinted clear as day on the bottom of the tag.

It wasn’t until two weeks ago that Ellery posted his find to the “All Things Lobstering” Facebook group, of which Leslie Dunton of Bar Harbor is a member.

He alerted his cousin Walter Dunton Jr. to the online posting. Walter Dunton Jr. knew just to whom the tag belonged, his father, W.R. Dunton of Salisbury Cove.

“We were tracked down, just like that,” said the Dunton Jr., a water colorist in Northeast Harbor. “It’s amazing in this day and age. I sent a message to [Ellery], and that was it.”

There are dozens of Facebook groups dedicated to solving little mysteries such as this. Members from all over the world dedicate their time to discovering what found items are and where they came from. Lobstering gear from Maine and Canada turns up frequently in the U.K.

The original owner of the tag is bewildered by the discovery.

“Imagine that washing from Frenchman’s Bay all the way to England,” Dunton Sr. said this week. “It’s pretty interesting. How it could have gotten there, I don’t know.

“It is plastic, so it won’t deteriorate, but it’s been tracking all this time on the ocean floor and [the name] could have rubbed off, but it didn’t.”

The elder Dunton began fishing nearly 70 years ago at the age of 13 and stopped this year at the age of 82. He fished out of Hulls Cove and Salisbury Cove for his entire career.

The lobsterman can’t pinpoint exactly when he would have used an orange tag such as the one Ellery found, but he guessed it is 15-20 years old from when he was skippering Stingray. The state tag colors change each year, and this one does not appear to have a date on it.

“It’s amazing how a little tag like that can travel for 2,894 miles,” said Dunton Jr.

A couple of years ago, Ellery found the owners of a fishing buoy that had made its way to England from Nova Scotia. But locating the owners or relatives of found items on the beach is not a common occurrence.

The lobsterman’s son said he will think twice about passing by random items that wash ashore.

“We walk the beach and pick up sea glass, but I’ve never paid attention to any of the other stuff,” said the son. “I think I will look at the beach and shoreline completely different now.”

After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

In this case, Ellery did not see the beaten-up lobster tag as trash, but it’s not exactly a treasure, either. Instead, his one Facebook post made the world seem just a little smaller.

Taylor Bigler Mace

Taylor Bigler Mace

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Taylor covers sports and maritimes for the Islander. As a native of Texas, she is an unapologetic Dallas Cowboys fan. [email protected]
Taylor Bigler Mace

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