Conductors of Summer

Consider The Lobster Man

Peter R. Jones — a lobster fisherman in Northeast Harbor, Maine — reveals the intricacies between lobster and man.


Conductors of Summer is a Heatwave feature in which we ask the conductors of summer — a lifeguard, an ice cream man, a gardener, a drag queen, and more — to document their high season with a disposable camera. Bring your handheld fan, because it's about to get hot.


Peter R. Jones started lobstering when he was eight. He bought his first boat when he was 13. Every morning, he goes out into the harbor with his crewmate, Aidan. They shovel bait, gaff buoys, and crate lobster — all before sunrise.

For many of us, especially the coast dwellers, summer is synonymous with seafood — oysters by the dozen, lobster by the pound. Fish markets and epicurean suppliers rake in customers with fresh-off-the-boat provisions. In Bar Harbor, Maine, roughly 50 miles by boat from the famed Maine Seafood Festival, summer means Fourth of July, which means Rotary Club lobster boils, lobster rolls, and lazy lobster.

Cleaning a lobster is a tedious task. Cooking a lobster is both homicidal and delicious. To catch a lobster, you must follow the rules.

There is a haunting awareness of the sea's bounty, an intricate series of laws and limits imposed upon the catching of lobsters. These barriers prevent the overharvesting that would preclude the sea's future generations from coming into existence, a delicate balance necessary for both man and nature. The legal specifications are elegant: a minimum landing size, a prohibition against capturing "berried" females, and mothers-to-be carrying the precious cargo of eggs.

In the United States, these lines are drawn in the water by entities such as the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service. It's an organized system involving lobster fishing licenses and pot tags corresponding to the fisher's permit number. Even the tag manufacturers play their part, maintaining databases for each state's licensed fisheries and keeping track of the annual count of tags purchased by each fisher. Most lobstering in Maine is an owner/operator deal, with each fisherman owning their own boat and selling directly to distributors. At just 23 years old, Peter is on his fourth boat.

Lobstering is carefully-coordinated effort, in which one has to balance the demand for seafood with the need to protect a resource that, if left unchecked, could easily slip through our fingers.

Despite the steadfast regulations, lobster prices have fallen at the docks. The volume of lobster sales has remained the same since 2020, but the sales have halved.

On my first day in Maine, I proudly declare to my friends, "I want to eat so much lobster that I get sick." At the seafood counter of a restaurant-slash-market, a fellow customer whispers to me, "The deals are better by the boats."

Claire, my friend's mother, promises to take me to the docks, where fishermen like Peter gather in the darkness. The crustaceans are a complicated lifeline; fishermen rely on the lobster to breed and choose a crate instead of burrowing along the seafloor.

City slickers, like me, gather at the foot of the boats. Ramps are designed to help you push coolers full of fresh catch to your trunk. Peter presents us with the day's catch, and it tries to escape us. We complete the exchange, 11 lobsters for $100, I think. Peter has a bright smile and is proud of his boat. I was proud to have considered the lobster man.

Below, a photo diary by Peter R. Jones.

A view of the sunrise from my front window on the ride out in the morning.

A picture of me driving my boat while out hauling.

Aiden sorting and “crating up” putting lobsters in the crates to sell on the way in from hauling.

A view of the sunrise from my front window on the ride out in the morning.

Passing by Bear island on a run in, which sits outside of Northeast Harbor

On the run out in the morning with Sutton island in the background.

More Articles: