Republican U.S. Senator from Maine Susan Collins has introduced a bipartisan bill, the “Working Waterfront Preservation Act,” alongside Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) that would establish a $20 million grant program to help preserve access to waterfronts in coastal areas for fishermen and maritime workers.
“The hard working men and women that make up Maine’s maritime industries continue to lose access to the waterfronts that sustain them,” Sen. Collins said in a Monday press release. “Recent demand for coastal property has only intensified the problem both in Maine and across the nation.”
“This bipartisan legislation would create a grant program to provide funding for municipal and state governments, nonprofit organizations, and participants in maritime industries to preserve and improve working waterfront property in our coastal states,” Collins said.
Under Sen. Collins’ bill, grants would be awarded through a competitive process administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, and applications would need to be endorsed by state fisheries agencies.
Grant recipients would also be required to permanently protect an area as a working waterfront.
“The working waterfront is our gateway to the amazing seafood we harvest here in Maine and around the country. Without it, we lose crucial connectivity within our local food system and significantly reduce the opportunity that seafood represents,” said Ben Martens, Executive Director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.
“Thank you Senator Collins for continuing to advocate for Maine’s iconic fishing industry and fighting to bring much-needed resources and attention to our working waterfront communities,” Martens said.
Patrice McCarron, President of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, also commended Senators Collins and Reed for their proposed legislation, saying that the program would “help protect existing working waterfront and preserve access for fishermen and the unique character of our fishing communities.”
“Waterfront access is critical to the future of Maine’s lobster industry. You simply can’t make a living from the sea if you aren’t able to get to it,” McCarron said.
According to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, in 2022 the state’s commercial harvesters of marine resources earned a total of $574,049,682 — the majority of which came from the almost 100 million pounds of lobster brought in by Maine lobstermen.
The most recent data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that U.S. commercial and recreational fisheries are responsible for 1.7 million jobs, $253 billion in sales, and $117 billion in value-added impacts nationwide.