Word Oceans Day has Midcoast communities and industries that rely on the sea are weighing the future amid surging storms and warming waters.

World Oceans Day on June 8 isn’t just about enjoying beaches, argued Harpswell Town Administrator, Kristi Eiane. “It’s about respecting marine resources and acknowledging how our choices make an impact,” she said.

When the United Nations first announced the holiday in 2016, its main priority was to reach the “30 by 30” goal; to protect 30% of the earth’s land, water and seas by 2030.

While that may seem like a lofty goal, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA) Director of Community Programs Monique Coombs hinted the key could be within reach.

The public wharf in Harpswell was knocked over during Saturdays storm on Sunday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald

“Fishermen are experts at adapting,” said Coombs. “They’ve exemplified resilience and perseverance for decades. Every lobster boat you see is a small business. Maybe it’s time for us to learn from those who’ve spent more time at sea.”

Coombs said it’s a misconception that when fishermen aren’t fishing they aren’t working.


She said that the act of fishing is a small part of the job. Before reaching water there’s the question of bait, gear storage, weather trends, and boat maintenance. Out at sea quotas are set, revenue reporting is conducted, and regulations are obeyed.

MCFA’s focus is to advocate for local fishermen by identifying the resources they need to rebuild. But when flood zone insurance falls through, recovery can get tricky.

“The post-natural disaster framework benefits public infrastructure and primary residences, not commercial fishing businesses,” claimed Coombs. “Fishermen can only insure their vessels, not their gear or other resources. Plus, flood zone insurance doesn’t cover anything ‘over the water.’ After big storms waterfront properties have been denied coverage, then dropped.”

On May 9, state officials announced that wharves and piers with “significant and compelling community benefit” were eligible to apply for grant funds through the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Working Waterfront Resiliency Grant Program.

A view outside of Glen’s Lobster in Mackerel Cove, Bailey Island. Laura Sitterly / The Times Record

“It made sense, at first, that working waterfront properties were valued by how much they brought over the dock,” said Coombs. “The state needed to get a feel for metrics in order to equitably distribute funding. But now, critical sites for gear storage and maintenance are at-risk. There’s other value, besides economics, that should be considered.”

Coombs assured that we can all become better stewards by controlling how we act and what we eat. While there’s still a “mismatch” in how grant allocations are dispersed she noted that one of the best ways for locals to support fishing businesses is by investing in wild-caught American seafood.


Responsibility falls on town governments, too.

“Facing adversity together creates unity,” said Eiane. “Recent events have redefined our collective and personal responsibility to keep the coast clean. As a municipal entity we are always looking for new ways to care for the waterfront.”

Harpswell recently teamed up with MCFA to coordinate storm cleanup efforts. Periodically it also deploys its Marine Resources Committee to gather shoreline debris.

Eiane urged locals to use World Oceans Day as a prompt to be more mindful of plastic disposal and animal excrement.

“Everyday choices impact our environment,” emphasized Eiane. “We’re working to ensure that public stations at places like the George J. Mitchell Field has feces bags available so people remember to clean up after their dogs. Visibility is an important part of education.”

Comments are not available on this story.