A little over two years ago, Rep. Pingree met with a group of fishermen out of the Portland area in a meeting organized by the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association and got to hear about the very real threats they were facing, and the issues other fishermen throughout the coast were dealing with on the working waterfront. This past session, Rep. Pingree submitted HR 3596 to help address some of the problems facing Maine, and our nations, fishermen. This bill is a re-submission of an older bill that she had previously worked on, with a few new components to it. MCFA worked closely with staff to identify some key additions. The most significant was the development of a grant and low-interest loan fund that we asked to be included so that there were real, actionable items that could lead to real and meaningful protection NOW.
HR 3596 Amends the Coastal Zone Management Act to establish a working waterfront task force, a working waterfront grants program, and a working waterfront loan program to preserve and protect coastal access for water-dependent commercial activities. As defined in the act, working waterfronts are waterfront property, infrastructure, and waterways that provide access to coastal waters for people in commercial and recreational fishing businesses, boat building, aquaculture, or other water-dependent activities. Working waterfronts are essential for fishing, shipping, and coastal tourism industries.
"Fishermen are a crucial part of our food system and supply our nation with high quality sustainable seafood from wild harvest and aquaculture sources. Much like we invest in local agriculture and infrastructure, we must to find ways to invest in our working waterfront to ensure access and opportunity for fishermen, families, and the next generation. This is a step in the right direction towards that end. " -Ben Martens Executive Director
Despite their economic value, working waterfronts are facing numerous threats, including pressure from competing land use plans, aging infrastructure, changing regulations, coastal hazards, and environmental impacts from climate change. It is incredibly hard to find the funding resources necessary to upkeep, protect, and innovate on the working waterfront. We hope that this bill creates some new opportunities if it makes it through the rest of the legislative process.
"Fishermen will have a lot to adapt to with climate change, development pressure, and changing regulations. Investing in our working waterfront is a key way to not only protect our community, but revitalize the blue economy of Maine." -Monique Coombs, MCFA Marine Programs