If anyone still believes Maine somehow functions in isolation, this issue of Working Waterfront should enlighten them. While the low price of Gulf of Maine shrimp is largely a reflection of supply — stocks are up after being down for several years — a contributing factor is a lack of processing capacity,
brought on by circumstances that discouraged wholesalers and processors from staying in this business. So this year, we have lots of shrimp with not many places to go. The small sellers in those trucks out on roadsides are at the mercy of market forces — not to mention an explosion of shrimp production in other parts of the world — that extend well beyond Maine’s borders.

The existence of Maine Built Boats, a relatively new association that now includes 40 Maine builders in its membership, suggests that global economic forces need not work against Maine or New England; the association is promoting the Maine boatbuilding industry internationally, banking on the state’s centuries-old reputation for workmanship of high quality in hopes members will garner international orders. The association took part in a trade mission to France and South Africa sent a representative for a look.

Builders in Maine continue to explore market niches: small boats for the U.S. Navy; yacht restorations; barges for aquaculture — again, markets that extend well beyond Maine’s borders. Add in a growing recognition that boatbuilding and boat maintenance are important parts of Maine’s threatened working waterfront, and you have an industry that’s a serious player in the state and regional economies, one that’s increasingly appreciated by the government and the public. It’s about time.