Kelly Punch of the Mere Point Oyster Co. prepares to harvest oysters from farm of floating crates on Maquoit Bay in Brunswick on June 12, 2022. Legislation sponsored by Rep. Dan Ankeles, D-Brunswick, to protect access to Maine’s working waterfront received full support from the Maine Legislature on April 10, 2024. Robert F. Bukaty / AP file photo

The state Legislature unanimously voted April 10 to enact legislation sponsored by Rep. Dan Ankeles, D-Brunswick, that would help protect fishermen’s access to Maine’s working waterfront.

As amended, L.D. 2162 would strengthen the working waterfront section of the current land use tax program, which provides tax relief for owners of land designated as working waterfront. By strengthening the program, Mainers who use their own residence for their commercial fishing business would have a larger incentive to enroll, according to prepared release from the House Democratic Office.

“Fishermen, growers and harvesters in Maine are being squeezed from all angles, from weather and climate events to market forces, regulations and the overheated real estate market,” Ankeles said. “Any relief we can provide to preserve working waterfront land and protect one of Maine’s heritage industries and all the families and businesses it supports is welcome. I’m grateful my colleagues all understood this and look forward to seeing this measure become law.”

Rising home values, particularly on the coast, have increased the tax burden on working waterfront property owners, making it harder for them to continue to earn a living. This comes as the number of active working waterfront parcels is already shrinking.

“Working waterfront is integral to our fishing communities as well as our state’s economy, history and character,” said Emily Coffin, the seafood and fisheries policy coordinator for the Maine Coast Fisherman’s Association. “There’s no one solution to saving our waterfront infrastructure, but we hope that by bringing the working waterfront program in line with the other current use programs we can reinforce the value of Maine’s working waterfront and protect our iconic coastline for generations to come.”

The bill now heads to Gov. Janet Mills’ desk for her signature.

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