There’s a hotel planned for development at Fisherman’s Wharf on Commercial Street in Portland, Maine, that has fishermen and Portland citizens worrying about the future of the city.

To show support for Portland’s fishermen, and express concern about the development, Portland’s creative community and a number of fishermen, including some from surrounding fishing communities, gathered on Saturday, June 9, at Merrill Wharf, following the annual Walk the Working Waterfront tour.

Some of the signs held by protesters. Kelli Park photo.

More than 100 people attended the rally, some of whom began at Custom House Wharf and walked to Merrill Wharf waving their signs and soliciting honks from cars and cheers from pedestrians. The signs depicted images of lobster, fish, and Maine, and reminders to “Know your fishermen,” and that “Portland is the port fishermen always want to come home to.”

The proposed development not only includes a hotel but also retail and office space. The construction will displace Portland Lobster Co. and parking for many residents of Peaks and Long islands. It has many fishermen worried about what a zoning change of this kind could mean for proposed wharf developments along Commercial Street in the future.

The event was executed by photographer Joanne Arnold, who for years has spent her mornings walking Commercial Street, capturing images from the wharves. Her images not only depict the boats and activities along the wharves, they also convey the hard work and dedication many devoted Maine harvesters embody. She worries about Portland’s changing landscape along the water, and what that means for Portland’s fishing community and the culture and character that fishermen contribute to the city.

The event was supported by the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. Fishermen, and concerned residents, can reach out to the organization for updates and information about how to get involved in supporting Portland’s fishermen. MCFA will also be looking at other communities to better understand how, for better or worse, they might be affected by changes in Portland; how other communities are shifting because of developments and new residents, and how to communicate that the fishing industry needs to be more of a priority in Maine. With indications that there are changes afoot because of the environment, right whales, and quota cuts, hotel developments are just another chink in an already vulnerable armor.

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Monique Coombs is the Seafood and Marine Resources coordinator for the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association. She has worked in the fishing industry for a decade, is married to a lobsterman and lives on Orrs Island, Maine.

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