When Virginia Oliver started trapping lobster off Maine’s rocky coast, World War II was more than a decade in the future, the electronic traffic signal was a recent invention, and few women were harvesting lobsters. 

Key points:

  • Virginia Oliver started catching lobsters with her father when she was eight
  • She now works with her 78-year-old son in the same waters
  • Ms Oliver said she had no plans to retire from her job

Now at age 101, she is still doing it.

The oldest lobster catcher in the US state of Maine and possibly the oldest one in the world, Ms Oliver still faithfully tends to her traps off Rockland, with her 78-year-old son Max.

Ms Oliver started trapping lobsters when she was eight, and these days she catches them using a boat that once belonged to her late husband and bears her own name.

She said she had no intention to stop but she is concerned about the health of Maine’s lobster population, which she said was subject to heavy fishing pressure these days.

“I’ve done it all my life, so I might as well keep doing it,” she said.

Mother and son on a lobster ship

Ms Oliver working with her son Max Oliver at dawn.(

AP: Robert F. Bukaty

)

The lobster industry has changed over the course of Ms Oliver’s many decades on the water and lobsters have grown from a working-class food to a delicacy.

Wire traps have replaced her beloved old wooden ones, which these days are used as kitsch in seafood restaurants.

Other aspects are remarkably similar.

She is still loading pogeys — lobster-speak for menhaden, a small fish — into traps to lure the crustaceans in.

She is still getting up long before dawn to get on the boat and do it.

In some ways, she was destined to be a lobster catcher.

Her father was a lobster dealer and instilled a love of the business in Ms Oliver who would join him on trips.

Lobster woman pilots a ship.

Ms Oliver says she has no plans to retire from the industry.(

AP: Robert F. Bukaty

)

Wayne Gray, a family friend who lives nearby, said Ms Oliver had a brief scare a couple of years ago when a crab snipped her finger and she had to get seven stitches.

 She never even considered hanging up her lobster traps, though.

“The doctor admonished her, said, ‘Why are you out there lobstering?'” Mr Gray said.

“She said, ‘Because I want to’.”

After all these years, Ms Oliver still gets excited about a lobster dinner of her own and typically fixes one for herself once a week.

She said she had no plans to quit lobstering any time soon.

“I like doing it, I like being along the water,” she said.

“And so I’m going to keep on doing it just as long as I can.”

AP

At 101, Virginia Oliver says she has no plans to retire from catching lobsters
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