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  • Writer's pictureMonique Coombs

Working Waterfront: How to help right now.

Updated: Jan 16

It's almost impossible to gauge the full extent of the repercussions from the storms this past week. The destruction was quick, but the rebuilding will likely take years. The construction of new wharves is hindered by the high cost and scarcity of necessary supplies. Additionally, various industries, including construction and surveying, are grappling with a shortage of labor. The impact on Maine's working waterfront is currently beyond comprehension. Below is a quick overview of exactly where we are right now, what’s next, and how you can help.

The working waterfront on the coast of Maine is forever changed.

Along the coast of Maine, there is a range of working waterfront properties, varying in size and infrastructure. For example, places like Greenhead Lobster in Stonington have extensive facilities, providing lobstermen with the ability to sell their catch and access bait and fuel. On the other hand, there are also smaller working waterfront properties utilized by a handful of fishermen, mainly for storing and repairing their gear. They all play a critical role to Maine fishermen, and they were all subject to massive damage after the storms on January 10 and January 13. Some of the small, discreet wharves are now completely gone.

While the reconstruction of wharves like Greenhead Lobster is anticipated, it's likely that numerous smaller, more discreet wharves have become a part of our historical landscape. Just like we sometimes long for pre-pandemic days, the fishing industry is going be nostalgic for pre-storm days from now on.

This is a lot to manage and process.

Wharves were not the only thing lost. Many lobstermen lost their traps, too.

Right now, many lobstermen are not hauling their traps. Most of Maine’s 4500 lobstermen are state fishermen, which means that they set and haul their traps within three miles from shore. They primarily haul their lobster traps in the summer and fall and take up their gear in the winter. During the winter they will build traps and get their gear ready to set back out in the spring. Unfortunately, some lobstermen store their gear on their wharves that are either near their home or shared with a few other lobstermen. So, many lobstermen lost some of their traps during the storm. They will need to salvage what gear they can and replace the rest. (If you find lost gear, please leave it alone unless you can return it to its owner!)

The complete consequences of the impact may not become apparent until the fall, a time when fishermen might find themselves without the resources and infrastructure that were accessible in the previous year.

There’s a labor shortage in Maine.

Like many industries in Maine, the building trades including marine construction are suffering from a labor shortage. This is because of things like an aging workforce, a lack of skilled workers, and even a fluctuation in demand for these specialized skills. The damage from the storm on the working waterfront is far greater than your average beach cleanup; some cleanups will require things like cranes, forklifts, backhoes, and landing crafts.

There’s also sometimes a shortage of supplies. Things like pilings, steel, and other goods can take months to have delivered. (Not to mention the increasing costs of supplies.)

What’s next?

We aren’t sure yet. Fishermen are excellent problem solvers, independent, and resilient, and right now they are working together to figure out what’s going on in their community and how they can support one another. Most fishermen have stories from when they were growing up of a wharf that fell in or caught fire and how they all worked together to salvage it. Connecting and working through issues like this are not uncommon to them, though, this is at a greater scale than anyone is familiar with.

Please recognize that many fishermen are likely grappling with a sense of loss over properties that held great significance for them and their families. Some have lost structures built by their grandfathers, full of cherished memories. The term "solastalgia," is the feeling of homesickness when at home, and it describes the emotions many coastal residents may be experiencing today—sadness, being overwhelmed, and perhaps a touch of anger. It's important to acknowledge and validate these feelings.

How can you help?

To provide a space for people to donate, we have set up a specific campaign that will be utilized to provide resources and support to commercial fishermen who suffered damage to aspects of their business, whether that’s gear, a wharf, or their boat.

We do not know the extent of the damage so it’s difficult to say how much money will be needed to repair parts of Maine’s working waterfront, but we can guess that it’s in the millions of dollars.

Fishermen need to fill out THIS form to report damage so that the state can better understand the damage and request emergency funding.

We are also working to find ways to support specific communities in their fund raising efforts. If you live in a town that was heavily damaged and would like to request a specific fundraising campaign for that town, you can reach out to us at

Stay informed about fundraising campaigns and other ways to support Maine’s working waterfront by following us on social media (@mainecoastfishermen) and by signing up for our newsletter HERE.

Lastly, we have also gotten requests from people who would like to help with clean up and repairs. At this time, this is something you will have to reach out to local businesses to learn about. You could also consider signing up at Maine Island Trail Association to be part of future beach clean ups.

Thank you, Maine.

Together, we persevere.



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