Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA), originally known as the Midcoast Fishermen’s Association, was established in 2006 in Port Clyde, Maine, by a group of fishermen seeking a way to advocate for policies that supported their businesses and ways of life.
Since then, MCFA has grown to represent more than 4,500 commercially licensed fishermen in Maine. The nonprofit organization has a staff of seven with an office located in Brunswick. From its roots as a policy-based organization, MCFA’s mission has evolved to include several community programs, including a fish donation program that provides local seafood to schools and food banks at a fair price from Maine fishermen, an education program to teach people about the value of the working waterfront, and a fishermen’s wellness program to provide mental and physical health resources to the fishing community.
The Maine fishing industry took a tremendous hit during the Covid-19 pandemic with the value of Maine groundfish (species such as cod, haddock, and flounder) dropping a staggering 73% from the 5-year average. This drop was attributed to a decrease in market demand, due in part to restaurants being closed and restrictions on overseas shipping. At the same time, there was a large increase in food insecurity in Maine. In response, MCFA created the Fisherman Feeding Mainers program (FFM) to provide a stable market for Maine fishermen by buying their catch at a fair price and donating it to local schools and food banks through the Maine Department of Education’s networks and the Good Shepherd Food Bank.
MCFA also strives to preserve access to fishing and related waterfront businesses. This has been done in part by educating local waterfront communities about the history and importance of Maine fishing. MCFA has hosted panels in several waterfront communities, inviting fishermen, business owners, municipal managers, and others to take part. This conversation series, called “Living and Working in a Waterfront Community,” stresses the importance of maintaining working waterfronts to keep fishermen and others involved in the industry at work. For many Maine coastal families, fishing is a way of life, with the fishing business being passed down from generation to generation. It is vital to keep the tradition—and livelihood—alive.
During the pandemic, MCFA received federal and state pandemic-relief funding to support the program. However, with the end of that funding and the continued rise in food insecurity coupled with still unstable seafood markets, the FFM program was in jeopardy. But, with donations from Mascoma Bank and other supporters, MCFA has been able to continue to serve Maine communities and support Maine fishermen through this program. Susan Olcott, Director of Operations, said: “As an organization, we have been able to grow our programs to expand our impact to more people throughout Maine in a way that also helps builds markets for fishermen and supports a way of life and culture that are iconic to Maine.”
Mascoma Bank is proud to support the mission of Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and appreciates the vital work of the organization in its efforts to provide a stable foundation for one of Maine’s most recognizable workers—the fisherman.