By not considering oil exploration and development, Maine may, again, turn its back on an industry that would guarantee good-paying jobs and cheaper energy.

The biggest reason given by both Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King for opposing offshore oil exploration is to protect our fishing industry. Are they both oblivious to the fact that our fishing industry has been in a decline for decades?

A year doesn’t go by without news that another fishery is closed because fish stocks have collapsed. Competition among what remains of our fishermen has become so fierce today that some have taken to sinking their competitors’ boats or, as in one incident on Matinicus Island, shooting each other. Where are the data that support our senators’ insinuations that a Maine oil industry would damage our fishing industry?

In the so-called pristine waters of the Gulf Maine, Maine’s shrimp fishery is closed for a fifth year. So, where are Mainers getting most of the shrimp they need? From the Gulf of Mexico, home to over 3,000 active oil wells and 27,000 abandoned wells that have been capped.

Back in the early 1970s, an oil refinery was considered to revitalize the city of Eastport. Opponents cited probable damage to that area’s sardine industry as reason to stop it.

So, how’s the Down East Maine sardine industry doing? Today, you can see the remains of numerous abandoned canneries crumbling into the sea. Upon hearing that the Eastport project was canceled, Irving Oil expanded its refinery just across the border in Saint John, and now practically every Maine community has a Canadian Irving Oil business in it.

We need to stop romanticizing our declining fishing industry and realize it will never again provide the growth in good-paying jobs that Maine so desperately needs.

Ted Sirois