The State of Maine’s Working Waterfront
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The State of Maine’s Working Waterfront

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    Working waterfronts are more than just a place of business for commercial fishermen; they are a hub of information, a collection of salty characters, a safe haven, a meeting room, a space for support, and they are well-deserving of both a place in Maine’s history and its future. Communities along Maine’s rocky coast are home to large wharves that bring millions of pounds of lobster over the dock to much smaller wharves that are used by one or two fishermen to store and maintain gear. They are in various stages of repair with some being “top of the line” while many others are in need of new planks and pilings. They are all necessary for fishing activity, to access the water, and most importantly to return home to after a day, or many days, at sea. Commercial fishermen are dependent upon safe, stable, reliable, and accessible working waterfronts for numerous aspects of their lives. But Maine’s working waterfronts are increasingly fragile due to the many challenges facing the commercial fishing industry, changes to Maine’s economy and culture, and the warming climate. This report serves to update our collective knowledge and inform future steps for the protection and preservation of Maine’s working waterfront from the lens of the commercial fishing industry. Our research included one-on-one interviews, literary research, and feedback from a broad group of advisors. While we were able to learn directly from just 10 of Maine’s coastal communities, the lessons are applicable along the coast. This report provides a snapshot of Maine working waterfronts focusing specifically on the commercial fishing industry. It includes suggestions for a path forward that aim to protect the working waterfront and encourage investment in the working waterfront, commercial fishing businesses, and fishermen. Through collaboration, innovative thinking, and a holistic examination of the working waterfront, Maine can ensure a thriving future for its fishing and seafood businesses. We can also do this by creating opportunities that allow fishing businesses to more fairly and aggressively compete with new development; aid them in enduring environmental changes; assistance that allows fishermen to cope with new policy, regulation, quota, and management; and mental health resources that humanize the industry and benefit fishermen-​wellbeing. While commercial fishing businesses and Maine seafood are important to the state’s economy, Maine fishermen are the most important and biggest asset. Ensuring a future with robust working waterfronts helps keep our coastal communities strong and Maine fishermen and their businesses prospering and healthy. With generous support from Ram Island and other Maine Community Foundation donors, the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association was able to spend six months, from April – September 2019, visiting communities along the coast to examine the current status of infrastructure and hear concerns about the future of Maine’s working waterfront. This report shares information accumulated from interviews and surveys, conversations, meetings, and research to help elevate the value and attention paid to working waterfronts for commercial fishing and provide suggestions for next steps. It also provides initial criteria that could be used to evaluate working waterfront sites that may be most vulnerable. We hope it sparks new conversations and continues to shine a light on the needs of Maine’s commercial fishing communities.
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