By Monique Coombs, Director of Marine Programs for the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Assocation
According to a 1999 report, more than 50 percent of Harpswell’s residents rely on the fishing industry in some way. Many of Harpswell’s year-round residents lobster or harvest clams. Some fishermen also dive for scallops and kelp, and a few aquaculture farms have popped up along Harpswell’s 216-mile coastline in the past few years.
There are also fishermen who fish for other species such as groundfish, shrimp, urchins, and eels, but most markets for these products are found outside of Harpswell. For example, Cundy’s Harbor is home to seven groundfish fishermen, all of whom sell to the Portland Fish Exchange located on the Fish Pier in Portland. At the fish exchange, businesses can bid on fish that they will then process or sell at places like Browne Trading Market.
Climate change, increasing regulations, and decreasing waterfront access are issues that are plaguing not only Harpswell fishermen, but fishermen throughout the United States. Once upon a time fisherman made up what was called an “annual round” by fishing a variety of species according to the season. For example, a fisherman might make up his round by fishing for lobster in the summer and fall, shrimp in the winter, and doing carpentry and building traps in the spring. But factors like climate change, ocean acidification, and new regulations are making it more difficult to fish a variety of species. As a matter of fact, most fishermen in Maine, and in Harpswell, now rely quite heavily on the lobster industry.
It’s important as consumers and as residents of Harpswell to remember that everything done on land eventually ends up in the water. It’s also important to remember how boats, traps, buoys, and nets are part of Harpswell’s natural landscape and an important part of the town’s heritage. Fishing industry members in Maine, like the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, are working hard to protect and sustain both the Gulf of Maine, as well as the resources from the Gulf of Maine that fishermen rely upon, but it’s also up to consumers to learn about the fishing industry and eat lots and lots of Maine seafood.
To read Monique’s column, “Seafood in the Spotlight,” click on the stories below.