Maine's Working Waterfront

The bridge between the ocean and our communities

Working waterfronts cover a mere 20 miles along Maine's 5,300-mile coastline yet they supply the lifeblood of many coastal communities, enriching the regional economy and sustaining cherished cultural traditions.

A healthy working waterfront is integral to a fishermen’s safety and success at sea, and losing the working waterfront would be a huge loss to Maine’s economy and way of life. Fishermen, their families, and their communities are coming together to ensure our docks, piers, and wharves don’t disappear forever. Planning and development must prioritize the fishing industry if Maine wants to continue to be the way life should be.

The Fishermen’s Association is working with communities throughout the state to preserve waterfront access and ensure fishermen’s voices are heard. We are supporting current working waterfront initiatives in Portland, Boothbay, and Harpswell and advocating for greater focus statewide on this pressing issue. 

 

 

Together, we persevere.

Working waterfronts cover a mere 25 miles along Maine's 5,300-mile coastline yet they supply the lifeblood of many coastal communities, enriching the regional economy and sustaining cherished cultural traditions.

A healthy working waterfront is integral to a fishermen’s safety and success at sea, and losing the working waterfront would be a huge loss to Maine’s economy and way of life. Fishermen, their families, and their communities are coming together to ensure our docks, piers, and wharves don’t disappear forever. Planning and development must prioritize the fishing industry if Maine wants to continue to be the way life should be.

The Fishermen’s Association is working with communities throughout the state to preserve waterfront access and ensure fishermen’s voices are heard. We are supporting current working waterfront initiatives in Portland, Boothbay, and Harpswell and advocating for greater focus statewide on this pressing issue. 

 

 

Together, we persevere.

Portland Moratorium

The city of Portland is proposing a 180-day moratorium on most non-marine development within the Waterfront Central Zone in response to fishermen's concerns about the future of the working waterfront. If adopted, the moratorium will pause non-marine development and provide time for the City to convene a stakeholder group to discuss ways in which the City can help alleviate concerns regarding development pressures. 

 Keeping the port in Portland is critical if we want to preserve Maine's fishing culture and way of life. 

"The working waterfront is our collective connection to the sea, to the deep maritime tradition, to the work ethic and soul of this place. Men and women of the fishing community, for generations, have been willing to tackle the sea to return with harvest; always a life or death gamble. Hotels and condos become meaningless without the context of our fishing community. To lose our working waterfront would be to betray the cultural context of this state." 

- Joanne Arnold,

Portland photographer, Interfaith chaplain

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Maine Coast Dock Talk shares stories from the coast of Maine. Listen to our three part Working Waterfront series. 

NEWS & UPDATES

The City of Portland, Maine, has long been recognized as a city that has successfully maintained its fisheries heritage, its grit, while also emerging as one of the nation’s trendy, up and coming cities. But Portland’s working waterfront is at a crossroads, with increasing pressure from development that squeezes fishermen into less and less space from which to work. Portland is in the limelight right now but the working waterfront issues it faces are playing out in multiple communities throughout the Maine coast.
 

This Coastal Conversations program is about Portland’s working waterfront, Past, Present, and future. We hear from six long-time fishermen who rely on Portland’s working waterfront to make a living, as well as a wharf owner whose family has long prioritized fisheries access on their property.

Listen here from the University of Maine Sea Grant, host of Coastal Conversations

When it comes to the working waterfront, there always seems to be someone with a big idea that doesn’t quite fit with existing ordinances and practices. Recently, a pair of hotel proposals had residents of Boothbay Harbor and Portland wrestling with the endless challenge of trying to balance the interests of those who need to be on the waterfront with those who just want to be.

Read more from the Island Institute 

In the early 2000s, a plethora of data was collected and a suite of reports on Maine’s working waterfronts produced, from the Island Institute’s “The Last 20 Miles: Mapping Maine’s Working Waterfronts” to Sea Grant’s “Maine Waterfront Access Status and Future,” even community-specific studies like “Cundy’s Harbor Working Waterfront Study Village Profile and Policy Options.” Each looked at the status of various working waterfronts along the coast of Maine and made suggestions for conservation and improvement. Each of the reports also declared the importance of the fishing industry to Maine’s 142 coastal communities, to the state’s economy and tourism, and to Maine’s culture, heritage, and way of life. Many Maine coastal towns with comprehensive plans also make this same declaration, reiterating how important the fishing industry is to the health of its small coastal community.

Read more from Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance

To many, the mention of Maine brings to mind the thoughts of the ocean, lighthouses and fishermen on the docks bringing in the catch. However, these working docks are at risk of disappearing and with them an iconic symbol of the Maine coast.

Read more from Tugta

On Jan. 31, the purchase of the Sea Pier at 87 Atlantic Avenue in Boothbay Harbor was completed and the property was donated to the Boothbay Region Maritime Foundation, BRMF.

Read more from the Boothbay Register

A group of fishermen and their supporters is dropping a push for a citywide referendum to stop non-marine uses from expanding on Portland’s working waterfront. The Working Waterfront Group said in a written statement that it will not submit the signatures it already has collected to force a vote on a proposed ordinance prohibiting the expansion of non-water-dependent uses within the central waterfront, which includes the piers along Commercial Street from the Maine State Pier to the International Marine Terminal. If it passed, the ordinance would have been in force for five years.

Read more from the Portland Press Herald

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Here is the full statement from the fishermen: 
The Working Waterfront Group has today [January 14, 2019] voted to not submit the current referendum to the City Clerk on Thursday, January 18. The group has decided to do this in a good-faith response to the City’s current effort to work toward significant changes in waterfront zoning and other measures to protect Portland’s working waterfront.

We wish to thank Professor Delogu for his assistance in drafting the referendum initiative and also the many volunteers and signature gatherers who helped to collect 2,300 signatures. We believe that their efforts have made this good-faith collaboration with the City possible and hope that they stay engaged in the process over the next 6 months.

By any measure, Penobscot Bay pilot David Gelinas has a hard job. In all weather and conditions, he travels miles out to sea to clamber aboard vessels in order to steer them and their cargos safely into port. But harder even than his work has been what he does in his spare time: advocating for the future of the port of Searsport and for the state’s working waterfront.

Read more from Bangor Daily News

A local developer has dropped a controversial plan to build a hotel on the Portland waterfront and city officials are proposing zoning changes to prohibit future hotels – a use that has prompted an effort to hold a citywide referendum to protect the city’s working waterfront.

Read more from the Portland Press Herald

A new report on Portland’s working waterfront shows an 8 percent decrease in the amount of space available for marine-dependent uses such as commercial fishing over the last six years.

Read more from the Portland Press Herald

In Maine’s decades-long fight over working waterfront, developers have consistently held a distinct cash advantage over fishermen.

That hasn’t changed, so advocates for ensuring that enough Maine piers and wharves remain available to preserve the state’s embattled maritime workforce have adopted new tactics. And there’s hope the state could free up more cash soon for working waterfront preservation.

Read more from Bangor Daily News

When the Portland City Council voted eight years ago to allow more non-marine uses along its working waterfront, city staff was required by ordinance to compile an annual inventory of waterfront businesses to make sure that fishermen and businesses that need access to the harbor were not pushed out.

Read more from the Portland Press Herald

A Brunswick-based nonprofit sees a possible development moratorium on Portland’s waterfront as a test case for competing coastal uses in communities across Maine.

“Portland is a bellwether city. Whatever happens in Portland will have a ripple effect across the state,” said Monique Coombs, director of marine programs at Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, an industry-led group that advocates for inshore fishermen.

Read more from the Portland Press Herald 

Portland City Manager Jon Jennings has proposed a six-month moratorium on waterfront development in an effort to forestall a citizen referendum to block non-marine construction on the city’s piers.

Read more from the Portland Press Herald 

We have all become familiar with the stories of Maine industries in decline, from plant closings to groundfish catch limits, but few of us can remember when Maine’s waterfronts were busy job sites with more workers than tourists. The kind of conflict seen in Belfast is playing out along the Maine coast, as the long-awaited emergence of an aquaculture sector starts to take shape, and unfamiliar uses are starting to show up in places that had grown quiet.

 

Read more from the Portland Press Herald 

In waterfront communities all over the Gulf of Maine a tug of war is happening between big business and a rich fishing history.

 

Watch this two-part series by NEWS CENTER Maine

Dozens of fishermen, their families and friends gathered at a pub on Portland’s waterfront Sunday to kick off what could turn out to be a historic campaign to save their industry from extinction.

Citizens behind the movement to freeze or contain development on the waterfront met in Andy’s Old Port Pub, a Commercial Street bar and restaurant, to collect petition signatures, raise money, and hand out informational materials.

Read more from the Portland Press Herald 

The citizens initiative would make sweeping changes to land-use rules governing three sections of the waterfront, spanning from the Eastern Promenade to Veterans Memorial Bridge. The proposal would further restrict uses that don’t rely on water access and narrow the scope of contract and conditional rezoning options that could be used to expand development options.

Read more from the Portland Press Herald 

 

 

Maine's Preservation's 20th list of Most Endangered Historic Places in Maine, released Tuesday, includes the notable buildings including the Vinalhaven home of artist Robert Indiana and the summer home of the first female U.S. cabinet member.

The list, released Tuesday, also features the state's working waterfront — with Boothbay Harbor's specified — and the state's historic dams.

Read more from Mainebiz

If Portland fishermen are successful in standing up to these changes, it will set a precedence along the entire coast that the working waterfront is critical to Maine’s future and our way of life....

 

Read on to learn more about how you can help save the working waterfront. 

Maine without a fishing industry is inconceivable, and the effects would be innumerable. From Cutler to Portland, fishermen are genuinely concerned about the continued ability to have access to working waterfront infrastructure because of developments and land disputes.

Read more from the Portland Press Herald 

On Aug. 12, Deanne Tibbetts, a resident of Boothbay Harbor, invited a small group of area residents to meet and discuss concerns about the potential loss of working waterfront and, along with that, an important part of their local identity and their maritime heritage. Tibbetts is a descendant of many generations of fishermen from Southport. The purpose of this meeting was not to debate progress, change, economic development, or any specific plans for the east side of Boothbay Harbor but rather to ensure that working waterfront and those people that depend on it and care about it have a seat at the table. 

 

Read more from the Boothbay Register

Paul Coulombe looks at the east side of the harbor and sees a place stuck in time.
 

The hotels and restaurants, some of which he owns, haven’t been upgraded since 1987, when the area was rezoned as a maritime district. It was a way to protect the working waterfront, where the wood-sided wharves have chipped paint but are still home to lobster boats and where the unmistakable smell of fish hangs in the air.

 

Read more from the Portland Press Herald

In 2015, the town’s Mitchell Field Committee issued recommendations for waterfront improvements. The committee called for the preservation of the area south of the pier as a recreational area, while a public boat launch and a seasonal floating pier would be constructed north of that area. There was one thing standing between the town and that vision — the pier.

Read more from The Times Record

There’s a hotel planned for development at Fisherman’s Wharf on Commercial Street in Portland, Maine, that has fishermen and Portland citizens worrying about the future of the city...

 

 

Read more from the National Fisherman

There’s a new but familiar conflict that’s becoming more common in fishing communities, and that is the threat to or loss of working waterfronts...

 

Read more in Maine Landings

With each condominium, hotel or other nonmarine building that’s developed on Portland’s waterfront, those who depend on that land at the harbor’s edge say they lose a bit of their livelihood...

Read more from the Portland Press Herald

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