By Monique Coombs, Director of Community Programs, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association
The working waterfront for commercial fishing covers less than 20 miles along Maine’s 5,300-mile coastline. Those 20 miles include access points that are vital to a coastal community and its ability to provide a way of life, enrich the regional economy, and sustain cultural traditions. A healthy working waterfront is also integral to a fisherman’s safety and success at sea.
What is a working waterfront?
For many people, it is much easier to conjure an image of a farm than it is a working waterfront. The definition of a working waterfront can also vary depending on with whom you are speaking. For most people, working waterfront can include everything from wharfs to docks to marinas, boatyards, and moorings. For fishermen, working waterfront is specific to infrastructure necessary for their business, and they use the term more similarly to how a farmer might use the term “food system.” For instance, a working waterfront for a fisherman in Maine may include everything from their boat and mooring to the wharf, bait cooler, and distribution that takes their product from whole fish to filleted packaged fish.
The one thing that is consistent in any definition of the working waterfront is the understanding that Maine’s coastline is delicate and sometimes even a slight variation can send a ripple effect throughout the ecosystem, food system, and working waterfront.
How to Care for the Working Waterfront (and Maine fishermen)
It is the unbiased opinion of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association that Maine’s working waterfronts and coastal communities represent all that is quintessential to coastal Maine. How beautifully striking is a hidden cove dotted with lobster boats at sunset? How marvelous is it to observe fishermen working together on the water to purse up menhaden? How fortunate are we to hear the grumble of a boat starting up to catch lobsters rather than continual traffic and constant city noise? The end result of our working waterfront and every one of its intertwined parts is the best seafood in the world.
- Treat the working waterfront like you treat your favorite hiking trails, preserves, and islands.
- Give fishermen that are working a wide berth. Just because you can see them, does not mean they can see you. (Looking at you, curious kayakers!)
- Slow down. Sometimes the person behind the wheel of a smaller boat near shore is a young skipper who is just learning how to fish on their own.
- What we do on land inevitably ends up in the water. It is important to remember that things like single-use plastics and microdermabrasion beads are bad for the ocean, but they are also incredibly bad for the health of the working waterfront because they impact the intertidal and our shared marine resources.
- I imagine I am preaching to the choir here, right? If you are a member of MITA, you already know how important it is to care for the environment, to conserve wild spaces, and to protect the ocean.
Fishermen, kayakers, boaters, and island trail users have a common passion and goal: to protect and preserve the ocean, and the ability to make a living or experience a quality of life on the water. In order to ensure we are all able to enjoy the ocean in the future, we must work together now to protect it.
Together, we persevere.
The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA) is an industry-driven nonprofit working to restore the fisheries in the Gulf of Maine and sustain Maine’s fishing communities for future generations. The organization works with, and on behalf of, fishermen in New England to support their businesses, encourage consumers to eat more Maine seafood, and advocate for policy that prioritizes the environment and creates opportunities for fishing businesses to thrive.In order to achieve its mission, MCFA manages a number of programs, including Fishermen Feeding Mainers, Safe at Sea, and Working Waterfront.