After 135 years, the last U.S. sardine cannery is shutting down in Maine. Why, since few Americans eat sardines at this point, does it matter that Stinson Seafood of Prospect Harbor is closing down?

1. Sardines are damned healthy. The last sputtering end of their heyday (production peaked at 384 million cans in 1950 according to the ABC News story) is a sad footnote to the fatass book of ways modern Americans eat too much bad food.

2. Jobs like “sardine packer” are about as sexy as the fish itself, but here’s the thing: For a long time these kind of blue-collar factory positions were steady work with benefits. This was work you could buy a house with, and send your kids to college with. Plus: Any job wherein you make a physical thing that people actually use and/or consume has a certain amount of ironclad internal integrity, just so long as that thing isn’t Hot Pockets.

3. It’s a nail in a coffin of a way of life in Maine, which has seen 400 canneries come and go since the first opened in 1875. State identities often revolve around food; the Carolinas have barbecue, Georgia has peaches, Wisconsin has cheese, Maine has fish.

The ABC story does end a bit of a bright note, however:

“In Monterey, Calif., a group of self-described “sardinistas” has taken on the task of trying to get Americans to eat more sardines…. The group is formulating a business plan in hopes of returning ‘the lowly sardine to the American palate,’ said Mike Sutton, a vice president at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who says sardines—high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, low in contaminants—are among the healthiest seafoods around.”

Image source: Flickr member cygnus921 under Creative Commons

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