BAR HARBOR — These days, one just needs to do a quick internet search to find a plethora of facts and figures on any given subject.
Unfortunately, historical data is not as easy to come by, which is why Acadia National Park is seeking help from the Mount Desert Island community to fill some gaps in a historical freshwater fish survey.
Park biologist Bruce Connery, along with University of Maine Professor Erik Reardon, Mount Desert Island Historical Society Executive Director Tim Garrity and Maine Sea Grant associate Natalie Springuel, is asking Mount Desert Island residents to dig into their archives for information about the island’s freshwater fisheries to aid in conservation efforts.
“We are interested in how people used freshwater fisheries in their normal lives, whether it was for recreation or subsistence or to support summer residents and in what capacity,” said Connery.
Over a century ago, fisheries were not as regulated or monitored as they are today, so data on freshwater fisheries is either scant or nonexistent.
Researchers across the country have used oral histories and family records to learn about what resources were available generations ago.
“Where you don’t have haul or tonnage records, you can use this or other measures to determine what the population was and what those resources were,” he said.
Connery said hearing from residents with long family histories will be beneficial to the future conservation of the island’s freshwater fisheries.
“We are interested in the resource quality that was here 50-100 years ago, where we were, and where we are today,” he said.
Advertisements for fish market sales, restaurant menus, recreational photographs or sales ledgers all could give some insight into the local freshwater fisheries of the past.
“We are taking oral inventories. We are asking people to look at family documents, or say you have a family photo album that showed us something,” said Connery.
The biologist said it’s possible that they won’t find any new information, but he is confident that there is a wealth of knowledge out there.
“We have a feeling there could be some hidden gems about this,” said Connery. “We are looking for people who we don’t know and for people who may have information but don’t know what we are doing.”
Those with any insight into freshwater fisheries here could prove to be an invaluable asset to the future of the island’s resources.
“The point of this research is to better tell the story of how MDI residents made it before there was a Hannaford,” he said. “But also the push from myself and state officials is to find out what was here and what we want to make sure we don’t lose what we have now.
“This is a benchmark and a forecast of the future.”
For more information about the project or to pass along a piece of history, contact Connery at 288-8726 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.