Since 2005, the Island Institute has led the Mapping Maine’s Working Waterfront project, recently completing a comprehensive inventory of the state’s working-waterfront and public-access infrastructure.

Within the 142 coastal towns and 5,300 miles that make up the coast of Maine, 1,555 points were identified as providing saltwater access. This access includes everything from public boat landings and municipal rights-of-way to boatyards, marinas and private fishing docks. It includes both ocean and estuarine access.

Of the 1,555 identified saltwater access points, 888 points support commercial fishing activities; of these, 66 percent are privately owned and vulnerable to conversion to other, incompatible uses. These 888 saltwater access points comprise approximately 20 miles of Maine’s 5,300-mile coastline — less than .004 percent

Only 81 access points have all three criteria for “prime” working waterfront: adequate parking, all-tide access and on-site fuel availability. Only 62 of these 81 “prime” working waterfront points currently support commercial fishing. Maine’s coastal communities have long known their working waterfronts are a vital and threatened resource, and now they have the data both locally and across the coast to show it.

This information was collected using geographic information systems (GIS) technology and was accomplished by working hand in hand with local leaders in each of the participating coastal communities. It includes information about critical access infrastructure at the local level and from a community perspective. The project goal was to provide relevant data to inform local, regional and statewide planning initiatives to protect and sustain waterfront access.

Hugh Cowperthwaite, Fisheries Project Coordinator for Coastal Enterprises Inc., said, “In recent years we have learned a great deal about Maine’s working waterfront as a diminishing natural resource that needs to be proactively protected. This study is helping to inform policy decisions being made today that will affect Maine’s coastal communities for future generations. A solid understanding of the resource is the beginning of an informed decision-making process.”

All local information collected through this study was provided to each coastal community to use for local town-planning efforts. In addition, local, regional and statewide organizations are interested in using the data to help set planning priorities to protect waterfront access.

For more information about this project please contact Shey Conover at the Island Institute,