Having fished commercially for over 30 years, co-founded the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance to help fishermen and served as a board member of the Portland Fish Exchange, I constantly champion the working waterfront. So I fear the mistake Portland’s about to make, surrendering to slick videos from lawyers and lobbyists and approving damaging zoning on the waterfront.

I confess, in past policy debates, I myself have raised the specter of fishermen going out of business. It’s effective. The emotional tug created by bucolic imagery of traditional Maine lobstermen or fishermen is always powerful. I understand. But the tactic can be abused.

Tourists are not the enemy – they’re customers who buy local seafood. The culprit is policy that has systematically decimated smaller fishermen. Thanks to severe federal and state restrictions, climate change and short-sighted decisions to reward those who catch the most fish, commercial groundfishing is now corporate. Mark my words: Lobstering is next on the hit list.

Politicians don’t like difficulty. They want the “fishermen problem” to go away fast. They’re desperate for a quick fix, and emotional images in slick videos are their perfect fig leaf. Their zoning “solution” creates no new berthing for fishermen. It punishes others, and cuts tax revenue for infrastructure upgrades on the working waterfront. Fire, ready, aim. I’ve seen it too many times before.

Fishing is one spoke in the wheel of a vibrant working waterfront. You don’t help fishermen by slowing Portland’s economic engine – you hurt them. Fishermen should work with developers to succeed together. Create partnerships to secure safe berthing, enhance the brand of Maine’s seafood (the best in the world), raise prices for the catch, encourage visitors to Portland. The answer is collaboration, not confrontation. It takes work and communication, not PR.

After Portland takes this damaging detour, maybe someday we’ll get there.

Craig A. Pendleton

Old Orchard Beach

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