The Midcoast Maine Fishing Heritage Alliance was created in 2009 by concerned individuals around Port Clyde, ME. Many of these individuals have no direct ties to the fishing industry, but want to help find ways to ensure that the fishing culture survives. To that end, we hope to educate others about fishing, its history in the region, and the preventable safety risks experienced by the fishing community.
The Alliance was started to provide a way for the community to become involved with supporting and preserving this critical historical and sustainable part of our food supply. The Alliance recognizes that the fishery in Midcoast Maine is made up of a network of people: made up of the families who fish, the towns that support and harbor them, and the community who is fed by them. We are developing programs to allow the community to participate in this critical part of our local way of life.
Vessel Safety, Maintenance and Repair
The goal of this project will be to coordinate the community’s effort to create infrastructure that will assist fishermen in keeping the fleet in safe and reliable condition. Fishing vessels need constant maintenance. Fishermen in Midcoast Maine traditionally have done much of the necessary vessel repair and upkeep themselves, cooperating with each other when a particular task exceeded a given fisherman’s strength or repair skills.
Over the past two decades, this informal skill-sharing system has been negatively impacted by the decline in the number of fishing families and the increasing complexity of the vessels themselves. To revive and expand this community tradition, the Alliance will work collaboratively with the fishermen to create a clearinghouse that will match vessel owners needing help with maintenance and repair to mechanics and carpenters (some fishermen, some non-fishermen) who can assist them. Eventually, it is our goal to hire a marine mechanic and a ship’s carpenter to provide supervision and technical assistance to the cooperative. The Alliance will collaborate with individuals or another community group who will provide a shoreside location where the vessel maintenance/repair program will operate.
Education and Community Outreach
The Alliance also will be sponsoring events such as lectures, community forums, and tours to educate and inform residents and non-residents about the history of the fishery in Midcoast Maine to help the public understand the various efforts that are underway to sustain it for future generations. The Alliance believes that once educated, community members and visitors will be far more likely to engage in the many individual actions that will support the common goal of preserving the fishery. Examples of the types of events the Alliance plans to sponsor include:
- Public lectures by fishermen during which they will explain their efforts to protect against overfishing, and demonstrate the gear changes that are helping them achieve specific goals such as reducing bycatch (the portion of a fishing catch that is discarded as unwanted or commercially unusable).
- Self-guided walking tours of the marine waterfront in various communities, with discussion of the shore-side facilities (i.e., transportation, fish packing boat hauling and repair) that are essential to support the fishery. The Alliance plans to adopt the “museum-in-the-street” model, identifying with informational signs and placards key aspects of current day infrastructure and historic locations of wharves and fish houses that no longer exist. This effort will provide interpretive information prior to establishment of the museum described below, and complement museum efforts once it is established.
- Tours of working draggers for visitors whose only previous experience on the deck of such a vessel may have been watching “Deadliest Catch” on cable TV.
- Sponsoring an annual Underutilized Species Cook-Off, whereby competitors will showcase innovative ways to cook underutilized fish species and instruct about healthy cooking techniques.
The Alliance is also beginning to build up a place for education and preserving the historical heritage of the Midcoast fishery, with online expansion planned for this web site to include history, educational, and interactive materials about the fishing community today. In addition, we hope in the future to establish a physical presence to house artifacts and history relevant to the Midcoast fishery.