Region 10's Kaileb Hawkes
The following article is re-printed with permission from the Times Record
Harpswell fisheries assessment highlights needs
BY NATHAN STROUT
Times Record Staff
A new report states that Harpswell’s geography is creating barriers between fishermen and the services they need.
The issue is outlined ino a needs assessment reported — “Beyond the Bow” — recently released by the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.
While challenges for Harpswell’s fisheries mirror similar communities along the coast, its somewhat disconnected geography is unique to the town.
“The geography of Harpswell lends to some of their issues,” said Kendra Jo Grindle, program associate for the MCFA. “Each community within the larger community is somewhat segregated.”
The segregation exacerbates the lack of communication between fishermen and the nonprofits, regulators, town officials and community members who need to work with them.
Grindle noted that many of the services fishermen said they needed were already provided by other organizations, but fishermen were simply unaware of the efforts. Increasing awareness can go a long ways towards addressing at least some of the problems facing Harpswell fishermen.
“There are resources that are available, it’s just making sure that people know about them and are learning about them and know how to access them,” said Grindle. “It was surprising to us that we need to do our own outreach, and other organizations need to similarly do a better job and do more outreach.”
For its part MCFA, is looking to focus more on engaging at the community-level in the future, instead of working just at the policy level.
“We can provide a service and a role to town officials and to community members that we haven’t in the past because we’ve been more focused on policy and fishermen,” said Grindle, “but there’s so much more that impacts fishermen than just policy.
“There are things that happen in towns that also are extremely impactful on fishermen, like how their business is allowed to run, where it can be operated, ordinances, zoning, financial fees, and if there ways we can be of service,” she added. “We can at least provide information and be a tool.”
The compilation of the report is a start of MCFA’s focus on engagement, as it conducted 200 hours of interviews with local fishermen to create “Beyond the Bow.” Grindle said that in speaking with fishermen, the nonprofit found they did not feel like their needs were being heard or met. For the most part, fishermen didn’t feel like they’d even been asked what they needed.
“We spent around a year talking to as many members of the fishing industry in the Harpswell community as we can, just trying to identify what their core needs are,” said Grindle. “And then also what they thought were solutions and recommendations that they want to make.”
Grindle said that this is really the first report of its kind on Harpswell in quite some time.
“We have not seen another needs assessment like this,” said Grindle, noting that economic impact reports and tourism reports had been produced occasionally. “Nothing like a needs assessment. The last thing that was done in Harpswell that I could really find that people are still talking about is a fishing profile from 1999.”
“Beyond the Bow” also reports that other challenges include a decline in commercial fishing licenses during the previous two decades, as well as a loss of waterfront access. The full report, including a number of suggestions to address local issues, is available online at mainecoastfishermen.org.