Two photographs –one old, one new — in this issue of Working Waterfront tell different stories about Maine and its varied fisheries. On page 21 we have a huge halibut flanked by two Phippsburg fishermen. The fish is longer than either man is tall; the picture documents a time (the 1970s) when people who lived on Maine’s peninsulas still ventured out to sea in small boats, caught big fish and brought them home to sell or feed their families. If the halibut or tuna or cod was big enough, someone might take a photo to commemorate the occasion.

A second image (page 1) depicts a lobster, or what’s left of a lobster after it undergoes a new “shucking” technique to separate raw meat from shell without cooking. The picture is all about technology and what new methods can mean for a fishery. In this case, a Maine firm is joining others in Canada that already use high-pressure water to produce uncooked lobster meat. For a global market that values ready-to-eat products of all kinds, the implications of this new system are profound.

For lobster fishermen and dealers, a ready source of raw lobster meat should create new customers, particularly in parts of the U.S. or other countries where boiling or steaming a live lobster and then picking it apart simply hasn’t been part of the culture. For restaurants and chefs it means less food handling, lower costs and perhaps more opportunities to develop new recipes that use lobster meat. In other words, the ability to extract lobster meat and ship it anywhere without cooking it can only enlarge the market.

On the other hand we have a resource that will one day reach its limits. If you don’t think the forces that did in the big (and little) fish we see in Phippsburg’s historic photos apply to lobsters, think again: the Gulf of Maine’s lobster populations have boomed and crashed in the past and there’s no sign the pattern won’t repeat itself. The ability to process large numbers of lobsters on both sides of the U.S-Canadian border and then sell the results into a global market can only increase the pressure on the resource. The conservation strategies of Maine lobstermen are and will continue to be important, but we do not exist in a vacuum. Other states and regions continue to harvest oversized broodstock and v-notched female eggers that are vital to the Gulf of Maine lobster stock.

The Phippsburg halibut photo was taken less than 35 years ago, and that fact tells us something more about fishing on the coast of Maine. In less than four decades the likelihood of someone’s landing such a fish — or a weir full of herring or a market-sized tuna — has dropped dramatically. The Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank are subject to severe fishing limits in an effort to allow depleted fisheries to rebound; whether the restrictions are have the desired effect is still unclear. The cod fishery that once supported the entire province of Newfoundland remains shut down. Meanwhile, most of the fishermen who once hauled in the big ones have retired or gone into other lines of work.

Technology is a great thing. It brings us new markets for our resources and it revolutionizes how we make and process things. It also has consequences, good or bad, intended or otherwise. How if affects each of will depend on where we stand.