Bartlett discusses Eastport’s sardine industry history on PRI’s ‘The World’

Chris Bartlett, a finfish aquaculture specialist at the University of Maine, spoke with Public Radio International’s “The World” for the report, “From gutting sardines to shipping pregnant cows, this Maine port wants your business.” Eastport went from having a peak population of just more than 5,000 in 1900, to an estimated 1,352 residents today, according to the report. The city sits in Washington County, one of the poorest parts of the United States, with high unemployment and opioid abuse. A century ago, Eastport was the sardine capital of America with regular ferries running from Boston, the report states. By the 1980s, Eastport’s sardine industry was diminished but still flourishing, PRI reported. “They were also making cosmetic glitter from the colorful slime off the back of the scales, it’s called pearl essence. There were three pearl essence factories here,” said Bartlett, a member of the Marine Extension Team that serves UMaine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Sea Grant College Program. Bartlett, who moved to the area in the late 1980s, said eventually sardines and other fishing businesses dried up, along with parts of the community. “Our elementary school was built to house 250 students from K–12. We now have 86 students,” he said.