101-Year-Old Fisherwoman is Maine's Oldest Lobster-Catcher With 94 Years on the Job

Lobster fishing is no easy job: in fact, the physically-demanding profession is also one of the nation's most dangerous. Those factors, however, haven't stopped 101-year-old Virginia Oliver, a fisherwoman who has been honing her skill since she was just a child.

As a pamphlet published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) notes, lobster fishing is "a hazardous occupation that has resulted in drownings from entanglement in trap line and being pulled overboard."

The agency adds that commercial fishing as a whole is known for its dangerous conditions, prompted by "the gear used in fishing, fatigue, and environmental conditions" which "all contribute to the high number of fatalities in the industry."

Virginia Oliver and Lobster
101-year-old Virginia Oliver banding a lobster's claw in Penobscot Bay in Maine, 2021. Getty Images/JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP

A 2013 Insider profile of lobster fishermen Craig Stewart and sternman Tim Lovett underscores the job's demanding pace, explaining that their workday begins before the crack of dawn, at around 4:30 am.

Despite having surpassed the typical retirement age decades ago, Oliver has no intention of slowing down. According to CBS News, the Rockland, Maine-based fisherwoman works with her son, Max, catching lobsters three days a week from May through November.

According to various media reports, Oliver was either seven or eight years old when she first began lobster fishing. She would join her father, a lobster dealer, while he worked, the Associated Press reported.

She's continued the practice on-and-off ever since—today, she is said to be the oldest licensed lobster fisher in the state, if not the world. "I've done it all my life, so I might as well keep doing it," Oliver said to the AP.

Virginia Oliver
Oliver sitting on her boat while her 78-year-old son steers the boat, 2021. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images

Though she works with her son, Oliver is very much the boss of her boat. Named the "Virginia," the boat once belonged to her late husband.

She holds her son to the same standards as she sets for herself, including never missing a day of work. "No. I wouldn't put up with the stuff," said Oliver to CBS.

Max Oliver added that if he were ever to mention retiring, his mother would tell him: "You better have something wrong with you."

"She doesn't give up," said Max. When asked when she plans on retiring herself, Oliver told the news outlet simply: "When I die."

Oliver's love for her job doesn't mean that her work is without challenges. Recently, she required seven stitches after being cut.

She recalled her doctor's visit following the incident to CBS: "And the doctor said to me, 'What are you out there lobstering for?' And I said, 'Because I want to.'"

"Well I don't care what he thought!" she added.

According to the AP, Oliver enjoys the fruits of her labor with a weekly lobster dinner.

"I like doing it, I like being along the water," she told the news outlet. "And so I'm going to keep on doing it just as long as I can."