Protecting Maine's Working Waterfronts

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Behind Every Boat is a Working Waterfront graphic
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 diverse array of businesses--including seafood harvesters and processors, freight and fuel companies, boat builders and ship chandleries, ferries, cruise boats, kayak outfitters, and marinas--all depend upon access to the water and shorefront infrastructure to flourish.

Working waterfronts provide a link between land and sea that is critical to sustaining a diverse and thriving coastal economy. Commercial fishing and marine trades in Maine contribute more than $800 million annually to the state's economy and employ about 30,000 people, giving fishermen and others both a livelihood and a valued way of life.

waterfront sketchOnly 175 miles of Maine's long coastline are sufficiently deep and sheltered to support water-dependent uses. More than half of these prime shorefront miles are already occupied by residential, commercial and industrial structures that may benefit from a waterfront location but do not depend on it.

The small portion of remaining shorefront suited to water-dependent uses is becoming harder for long-time landowners to retain, given development pressures and rising shorefront property taxes. Increasingly, those engaged in water-dependent businesses are driven from the waterfront-losing both their livelihood and their familiar way of life. This trend, coupled with declines in traditional industries and infrastructure, makes it hard for many marine businesses to survive.

Fortunately, people are becoming more aware of the challenges facing working waterfronts, and many efforts are underway to ensure their continuing vitality. The Maine Coastal Program works with local citizens and leaders to sustain working waterfronts--offering technical support, workshops and resources. These web pages describe some of the local and state tools that can be used to preserve and enhance working waterfronts. The information on this site will be updated and expanded over time: please provide comments and suggested additions to: Kathleen Leyden.

News & Current Activities

The Island Institute's Working Waterfront Newsletter