Keeping the Maine Waterfront Working

Maine watermen have been supplying seafood to America for generations. But development on the Maine coast is making it harder and harder to earn a living on the Maine waterfront. A state program helped with funding from the Maine Coastal Program is doing something about that.

Davis family pier, Maine

Davis family pier, Mt. Desert Island, Maine

Wayne and Robert Davis of Tremont on Mt. Desert Island, Maine run the last family-owned, full service fishing wharf on the island. With about half an acre of land, 420 feet of rocky shoreline, a 3,200-square-foot wharf and associated storage and maintenance buildings, the Davis property has allowed four generations of family fishermen to supply lobsters, scallops, and other seafood to local buyers. The family hopes four-year-old Ryan will be the fifth generation Davis to earn a living as a Maine waterman.

But the rapid pace of development for new summer homes and the climbing property values of deep water frontage in this popular resort area threaten Maine’s working waterfront heritage. Maine fishermen earn less today for their fish and shellfish than they have in the past, while their business expenses continue to increase.


Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program

Thanks to the Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program, operated by the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources, which is supported by the Maine Coastal Program with federal Coastal Zone Program funds, and the Land for Maine’s Future Program, the Davis family will be able to protect their property in perpetuity for Ryan and other future generations of fishermen.

Davis family fishing gear

Foul weather gear for Ryan Davis, a fifth generation member of a long line of Maine watermen, hangs at the far right in the Davis family pier house.


The Davis family received $265,000 from the Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program to place a permanent covenant on their property. In addition to the program funds, owners of protected working waterfront can apply for local property tax reductions. The Davis family project is one of 17 Maine working waterfront projects to have been funded by the program.

“It’s a good public investment,” says the State Planning Office’s Jim Connors, who helps run the Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program with Maine’s Department of Marine Resources. “It’s helping to secure important working access for commercial fishermen and other related jobs. It benefits the entire economy of Maine’s coastal areas.”


The OCRM Investment Connection


Jim Connors, left, helped run Maine's Working Waterfront Access Pilot program until his retirement in 2010.

  • The CZMA helps funds 34 state coastal zone programs, including the Maine Coastal Program.

  • OCRM administers the CZMA funding,through a cooperative agreement, to the Maine Coastal Program.

  • Some of the Maine Coastal program funding helps pay Jim Connors’ salary in the State Planning Office.

  • Jim Connors helps run the state’s Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program.

  • The Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program helped the Davis family save their fishing business on Mt. Desert Island.

  • Four-year-old Ryan Davis may be the fifth generation of his family to earn a living on the Maine waterfront.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Mountz


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