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The Future of Ground Fishing in Maine Waters 

Wayne Harvey

Maine’s heritage on the coast has deep roots in fishing, whether it’s for lobsters, or digging for clams, or ground fishing.But during the last fifteen years off shore fishing stocks have been depleted.So some stopped fishing and their licenses with the federal government to fish have expired and not been renewed.Monday there were steps taken to get Maine fishermen back on the water, and that is thing of joy for Dick Bridges.” This is the happiest day for me that I’ve had in 15 years because knowing that we’ve got a start here and knowing that the younger fishermen can go fishing and we’ve been all trying to do that and now it’s happening at a small scale and it’s gonna take a lot of time and a lot of money”Only two dozen permits are in the hands of Maine fisherman, and now one of those has been purchased by the group Penobscot East Resource Center.That was a 44 day fishing license that Vic Levesque of Franklin sold. The goal is get fishermen on the water next year with researchers and scientists to find out how many Cod, Haddock and Flounder are off the coast.” They need to start studying them to figure out where they’re coming back, where they can fish so this is important for research, it’s symbolically important but we need to purchase a lot more permits to make it a viable industry again in Eastern Maine,” said Maine Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree.This may not solve all the problems, but it is a start and it does get Mainers diversified in their fishing so it’s not all dependant upon lobster.Representative Pingree grew up not far from these waters and she sees the future in diversity for the fishermen. ” This means that there is some chance that we can get back in these communities that are entirely reliant on lobstering they could have some future with another kind of fishery so I think it means there’s hope.”” What we have to understand is that we must have access to this fishery, we have a natural resource based economy that’s now changing some in the state of Maine,” said Senator Dennis Damon. “Farming, Fishing, and Forestry was a part of our state seal and we must continue to maintain that and this allows people to get back into the fishing aspect of it.”And that is fine with Deer Isle’s Dick Bridges ” That’s a very good start because then we can find out what’s out there, how many fish are left in our area, because if we can find enough to work on then the fishermen are going to go to work.”” For me the goal is that these communities survive” said Representative Pingree. “And we sill do everything we can to make them economically viable and we think ground fishing is economically viable for other parts of Maine and Southern New England and we need to have a piece of that.”Bridges used to fish the waters off the Maine coast and he knows that mistakes were made, and he doesn’t want those errors of the past to be repeated. ” We over fished it and we know that today. And when we go back out there we’re gonna be catching so many fish and we’re hoping to get so much money for those fish, so we can take very little fish and still get the money for them or more.”The program is operated by Penobscot East in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy.