PORTLAND – The resignation of Norman Olsen came as a surprise to me, and I am saddened by his departure.

I have known Norman and his family since we attended Cheverus High School in the late ’60s while working at George Lewis’ mid-central whiting factory on Central Wharf (now Chandler’s Wharf’s condominiums), unloading and packing fish from his dad’s dragger when Portland was a working waterfront.

The history of the Olsen family and its commitment to the Maine fisheries is known by all who make up the Portland fishing community. The Olsens exemplify the image of the Maine fisherman: hard work, integrity and the iconic Maine way of life.

THINGS HAVE CHANGED

The character of the Portland waterfront and the coast of Maine have changed dramatically over the last 40 years.

Back then, every wharf and pier was busy with some type of fishing activity, from unloading to processing. Forklifts drove up and down Commercial Street with racks full of fish; seagulls ruled the air space; trains were always present on tracks that are now long removed; and the smell of money or spilled fish was everywhere.

The annual catch statewide for lobsters was 17 million pounds and the only markets that existed were local and live, with the exception of a few gamblers who dared to ship to New York or Montreal.

Today, the declining fish resources and the global supply and demand cycles have made what was once a thriving Maine industry with what seemed like limitless supply a complicated, highly regulated business on life support. Boats have left and only the fish will bring them back, if and when fish stocks recover.

The lobster catch has increased fivefold as the ground fish has declined. The Maine lobster fishery is said to be one of the best run, most sustainable fisheries in the world.

The growth and development in the shore side part of the industry has occurred in the processing sector, with three of the five facilities starting operations in the last five years. The development of lobster processing in Maine has created value for all of the people of Maine by keeping dollars here instead of exporting them to Canada.

I have owned and operated lobster, crab and shrimp processing businesses in Maine since 1976 and have witnessed sweeping changes in processing techniques, state and federal regulations and the complexity of running a business. It is now necessary to have a good working relationship with all government agencies in order to stay compliant and competitive.

The LePage administration has been the most accessible and interested of any that have occupied the Blaine House. In 35 years in business I have never been contacted by senior members of an administration like I have been by Paul Lepage’s team, including calls from the governor himself.

ADMINISTRATION UNDERSTANDS

The governor’s team is there to help Maine business; it will try and do what it can to help companies succeed.

Gov. Paul Lepage’s team understands how difficult it is to run a small business, since most of his appointees have run their own. He also understands how valuable our natural resources are and the need to protect them.

It has saddened me to see two men with whom I have a long and uniformly positive history fall on opposite sides of an issue. However, I am confident that cool heads will prevail, and it should be clear to all that both truly have Maine’s best interest at heart.

– Special to the Press Herald