Virginia Oliver began trapping lobsters off Maine’s coast when World War II was already a decade away. The electronic traffic signal was still a new invention, and very few women were harvesting lobsters.
She still does it nearly a century later at the age of 101. Oliver, a lobster fisherman who is possibly the most senior in Maine and the world, still tends to her traps off Rockland in Maine with Max, her 78-year old son.
Oliver began trapping lobsters when she was 8 years old. She still uses the boat her late husband gave her, the “Virginia”, but is concerned about Maine’s lobster population which is under heavy fishing pressure these day.
Oliver stated, “I’ve done this all my life, so it might be worth continuing to do it,”
Oliver has spent many decades in the lobster industry. Over the years, lobsters have evolved from a common food to be a gourmet delicacy. When she started trapping lobsters, they were selling for 28 cents per pound. Now it is 15 times that. Her beloved wooden traps are no more. Wire traps are now used in kitsch at seafood restaurants.
However, there are other aspects that are very similar. Pogeys, lobster-speak to mean menhaden, are still being loaded into traps to attract the crustaceans in. She still gets up at dawn to go on the boat.
In some ways, she was meant for this life. Oliver would go on trips with her father, a lobster dealer who started around the turn of this century.
Wayne Gray, a friend from the family who lives near Oliver, stated that Oliver suffered a minor injury when a crab bit her finger. She needed seven stitches. However, she never considered hanging up her lobster traps.
Gray replied, “The doctor admonished you, and said, ‘Why aren’t you out there lobstering?” She replied, “Because that’s what I want to do.”
Oliver loves lobster even after all these years. She still enjoys making it for her family and usually cooks one for herself once a week. She has no plans of quitting lobstering anytime soon.
She said, “I enjoy doing it, and I like being on the water.” “So I will keep doing it as long as possible. “