MIT Sea Grant: New England's Fishing Communities Table of Contents

4. Vulnerability, Infrastructure adn Gentrification among Fishing Dependent Communities
4.1. Historical and Total Capital
4.2. Measuring Infrastructure
4.3. Classification of Community Sample by Categories
4.4. Gentrification and Loss of Infrastructure

4. Vulnerability, Infrastructure and Gentrification among Fishing Dependent Communities

Like most of the nation’s coastal areas, New England’s coast is under increasing pressure from population growth and related development. It is estimated that half of the nation's total population now lives in coastal areas and that by 2010, that population will have grown almost 60 percent. Inevitably, conflicts arise between competing interests and demands for access to and the use of coastal resources. While an Internet-based "Town meeting on America’s Coastal Future" sponsored by National Ocean Service (NOAA) found "strong support for conserving cultural heritage and diversity" as well as "traditional occupations," in truth, competition for space threatens fishing infrastructure and culture in many areas.109

When working harbors are transformed to address the demand of the middle-class for upscale housing, recreation, and entertainment rather than maintained in support of the productive activities associated with the commercial fishing industry, they may be said to be undergoing gentrification. The subsequent loss of localized community character and culture is termed delocalization and affects rural and coastal communities throughout the world. Delocalization decreases diversity and thus the adaptive flexibility needed to respond to localized changes in environment. Fishing populations undergoing delocalization lose access to total capital as values change, making it difficult for them to pursue a fishing lifestyle. This process is particularly rapid during times when the NRR is undergoing stress from reduced stocks as is currently the case.

The process of gentrification and coastal transformation is accelerating in New England as it is in most coastal areas of the US. For example, now that seals are found in Chatham, MA year round, possibly due to changes in local water temperature regimes and fish migration patterns, an operator of seal tours has started a new business. The tour operator wants a ‘no wake zone’ in an area where commercial boats pass through on their way to and from the harbor, because waves disrupt the water so the tourists can’t see the seals on the surface.110

As these processes accelerate, it becomes more difficult to identify ‘fishing dependent communities’, since the fishing industry’s percentage contribution to total capital and local economies is diminished. At the same time, fishing families within these communities have necessarily adapted by increasing their networked capital flows to other communities in the NRR, intensifying the process of regional dependency in place of community dependence. Thus, the very nature of fishing in the community context has changed, as trucks, boats, and people shift and move from place to place in order to respond to opportunities to optimize capital gain in the face of reduced community infrastructure and market, and increased regional dependence and market flows.

By definition, gentry are "landed proprietors" who "typically wield large social, political and economic power."111 Gentrification, then, of a fishing community implies a shift in power from the working men and women of the fishing industry to "those from away," those in white-collar jobs, or tourist (service) industries, and/or those who do not value the reality of a working waterfront. When intense external capital flow comes into a community, it necessarily increases the vulnerability of existing total capital networks. Traditions–existing ways of working, socializing, sharing, learning, and extracting economic capital–are lost or weakened as new, often mono-cultural, patterns come to dominate. Boat owners stop sharing fish at the dock, and banks stop giving loans to the fishing industry. 112 More frequently, land use patterns change, shoreline property prices inflate and the fishing industry is displaced, with less access to the waterfront. In those areas that attract only seasonal visitors, the attractive centers are apt to be boarded up in the off-season leaving the year around population without a community center. Such external influences can engulf and transform unique fishing cultures and communities following the natural resource way of life.

Regulatory layering is an additional external influence that has negative impacts on the maintenance of a fishing way of life. As the numbers of regulations mount to increasingly constrain fishing in response to perceived stock declines, fishermen attempt to adapt by switching gear and fishing locations in order to take advantage of available species. However,

"Many of the fishermen we interviewed had the sense that the regulations were confining them or "boxing them in" to one fishery at the expense of allowing them to take advantage of developments in other fisheries. This reduces the flexibility that is a hallmark particularly of smaller and medium-sized vessels, as well as contradicts current government and private efforts to promote underutilized or newly developed fisheries."113

Adaptation to changing conditions has made the fishing industry of New England resilient for over two centuries. When necessary, fishermen have changed gear, changed fishing areas, changed target species, trip patterns, and crew and in some cases even vessels to remain in the industry. In some areas in the region, a yearly round may include, for example, a combination of lobstering, shellfishing, shrimping and groundfishing to sustain the fishing household’s livelihood. What is different now is that traditional flexibility is being harnessed and restrained by regulatory requisites associated with permits, limited access, and a recorded history of landings.114

Furthermore, as gentrification pressure has increased, and fishing infrastructure subsequently diminished, remaining infrastructure, supply outlets, and market connections have become increasingly de-localized. A fishing boat pulling into Boston Harbor is not likely to get repairs or buy fishing gear nearby. They can buy ice and fuel and they do offload product to regional and international seafood brokers. In fact, Boston has become specialized as the major international/ national transshipment site for seafood product in New England. This same vessel may get their fishing supplies and gear from New Bedford and Gloucester and their crew from the Cape or Portland. As this process of regional interdependence accelerates, dependency on remaining services and infrastructure is magnified and concentrated, creating an impetus for remaining dominant fishing sites to consolidate and specialize. As with the transshipment monopoly of Boston, the development of large, capital intensive fish auctions in Portland and Gloucester is an example of such a process of regional consolidation and specialization in the fishing industry.

The result is increased mobility of product as well as boats, gear, and fishermen, as they interact with the specialized centers, supply points, and seasonally changing fishing areas. Nevertheless, the maintenance of social and cultural capital resides at the local and community level. As fishermen are forced to practice a regional strategy, human networks and social ties can become strained for the occupational nomads. Where it is no longer possible to be a permanent part of a year round fishing crew that socializes and fishes together, social capital declines. Onshore, networks of families and friends often reflect the fishing crews and networks. These networks diminish along with the breakup of crews, resulting in a more atomized community with more social problems and decreased participation in community activities.

"Fishers are embedded in households that represent a shoreside extension of fishing activity. Wives and families of fishers are often intimately involved in management of fishing operations, including tracking of finances, attending public hearings on new regulations, and providing political and public input on fishery issues. Management policies that do not recognize this can negatively impact the social, psychological, and economic well being of the fisher household. Costs to fisher households can range from wives being forced to work multiple jobs outside the home to foreclosures on homes whose mortgages are tied to fishing vessel mortgages."115

This is compounded by increasing competition under new stricter regulations, including declining collaboration at sea:

"Crew reductions, of course, result in more work aboard vessels per crew member and the neglect of certain activities associated with safety. Increased competition and conflicts between vessels and between fishers from other ports, due to the perceptions that fishers are having to divide up an ever shrinking pie, have decreased the extent to which fishers help one another out of trouble on the open seas."116

Stress is placed on families, children, and marriages as fishermen are forced to work across regions and even outside of their region, to make ends meet. In Gloucester, it is not uncommon to find owners of family boats who will spend time dogfishing to the south in the winter or even join a summer Alaskan fishing venture as crew in the summer. In this context, surviving fishing infrastructure represents an increasingly valuable capital investment in a way of life.

4.1. Historical and Total Capital Determinants of Infrastructure Return to Top

Complexity of infrastructure is one measure of a community’s dependency on fishing. However, the scale of fishing activities and the size of the community in question must be considered when using infrastructure as a signal for dependency. For example, a lobster fishing community in Maine may lack many of the indicators of complexity (e.g. ice house, fish processor), fishermen may purchase their supplies from a nearby town, ship their product on regional truck carriers, and have their boats built in Nova Scotia. Yet, most of the households can still be directly or indirectly dependent on the harvest of lobsters as a primary means of maintaining total community capital.

At the opposite extreme, a historical fishing port can have many of the indicators of complexity. Yet, it may be losing families through migration, retraining and job switching. Out-migration may be spurred by declining economic vibrancy of the local fisheries, reflected in a decline in the quality and quantity of port facilities, and loss of dock space to the externalities of gentrification. However, if the port still possesses sufficient remnants of key infrastructure, it may be designated as highly fishing dependent, even though it is in decline and at risk of collapse from change externalities. Thus, while fishing infrastructure is one measure of dependency, the analysis must take into consideration local ethno-historical conditions, community scale and type of fishing pursued, and degree of external pressure from gentrification, along with total capital flows.

In this context, surviving fishing infrastructure represents an increasingly valuable capital investment in a way of life. As fishing infrastructure is lost, whichever community in a region that retains such critical infrastructure may become vital to nearby communities who lack or have lost such economic capital. Active protection and improvement of such critical infrastructure or core facilities is a proactive measure that could be taken by managers to help preserve the viability of the New England fisheries. Persistence of industry as well as fish stocks should be a strategic goal of the fisheries management agencies.

Vital regional facilities can become vulnerable when inadequate product is available from the production sector. For example, in Hampton/Seabrook, New Hampshire, a fishing cooperative is the major landing and marketing facility for the small local fleet. Recent restrictions on daily landings of groundfish such as cod are making it difficult to keep the facility going with so few fish to market. The port of Rockland in Maine has a central role in the distribution of herring for lobster bait. Rockland is the only regional port with a functioning dockside pump-out mechanism for offloading herring. Rockland pier represents a core facility for dozens of bait dealers from nearby towns and hamlets supplying many hundreds of lobster fishermen in scattered small ports and coves throughout the region. If the facilities as well as stocks are not protected, once the biophysical capital rebounds, communities dependent on facilities like those in Rockland and Hampton/Seabrook will not able to take advantage of the improved stock conditions to generate fisheries capital for the region and nation.

At the same time, the declining numbers of fishermen make it more difficult to constrain the land use demands associated with gentrification. For example, in a recent development at the state pier in Galilee, Rhode Island, a proposal by a private firm to berth a 120-foot catamaran ferry there threatens space traditionally used by local fishermen to repair their boats or to load and unload gear. Although one ferry already operates across the harbor from the proposed business, the new ferry is being touted for its ability to save five minutes on the crossing to Block Island as well its luxury value:

"…the boat would include carpeting, air conditioning, and televisions. "It’s like going to an amusement park… Fast food, fast cars, fast everything — that’s what people want." 117

From the fishermen’s perspective: "All of us use this dock," says Narragansett skipper Cliff Sambrook, who recently used the pier to paint the Laura Jean, a 40-year old fishing boat. "Where are we going to go?"…"It’s a huge concern among commercial fishermen," said Jim O’Grady, a commercial fisherman. "The boat’s too big." 118

4.2. Measuring Infrastructure Differentiation Return to Top

For this report, the baseline conditions of fishing infrastructure are measured using a set of variables identified through visits to diverse community sites in New England (Table 4). Eighteen infrastructure components were tracked for 35 communities in the New England NRR. These communities are representative of the entire region, and are dispersed through the eleven sub-NRRs. We used principal component analysis to derive a scale of infrastructure differentiation. The scale provides a weighted empirical measure of the construct. The total variance explained equals 29.7%.

Table 4. Principal Components Analysis of Fishing Infrastructure Differentiation
Item Item Loading
NMFS Extension Office 0.710
Icehouse in-town 0.679
Boat Insurance 0.633
International Fish Brokers 0.630
Diesel Fuel Dockside 0.621
Finishing Monument 0.585
Fishing Auction 0.578
Local Trucking 0.574
Fish Processor 0.572
Fishermen supply house 0.539
More than two fishing associations 0.533
Boat welders 0.531
Vessel haul-out facility 0.507
Local net maker 0.459
Marine Supply House 0.412
Bait house 0.374
Fish retail store 0.359
Two or fewer fishing associations 0.336

Prime (top six) components of dependency include icehouse, NMFS extension office, dockside diesel fuel, international fish brokers, and boat insurance. The lower level (bottom six) components include bait house, more than 2 fishing associations, marine supply house, local net maker, fish retail store, and two or fewer associations.

Middle range items include local trucking, fish processor, fishing monument, boat welders, fishermen supply house, and vessel haul out facility. These eighteen total items load on a single factor of fishing infrastructure that allows us to rank order the sampled ports in the region by means of their particular factor scores on the scale. Those that score highest have the highest correlation to the factor, while those that score the lowest, the least. We assume there is some link between these scores and the level of one aspect of fishing dependency in the port.

However, it is critical to note that other economic activities besides fishing go on in a port, and can mask the importance of fishing infrastructure in any single community. This is an argument against using strict economic valuation (amount of total community economic capital measured against amount supplied by the fishing industry in any port) to identify a community as fishing or non-fishing dependent. As noted earlier, fishing dependency is best measured by examining communities in a regional context of total capital exchanges, not by measuring each community as economic isolates having no regional value outside their non-fishing economies.

4.3. Classification of Community Sample by Categories Return to Top

The list of 36 communities (Table 5) shows seven ports that can be classified as having "primary" infrastructure (New Bedford, Portland, Gloucester, Chatham, Point Judith, Portsmouth) with the remainder being secondary and tertiary ports. Also, some ports contribute more to the regional flow of total fishery capital than others do. For example, New Bedford, that tied for top ranking of 1.5 and factor score of 1.999, is often mentioned by nearby communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island as a source of fishing supplies and the site where vessel haul-out and repair is done. Portland serves a similar role in Maine and New Hampshire.


Table 5. Fishing Infrastructure Differentiation Scale for the New England NRR.
Port Ranking New England Fishing Port Factor Score
New Bedford, MA 1.999
Portland, ME 1.999
Gloucester, MA 1.678
Chatham, MA 1.614
Point Judith, RI 1.350
Portsmouth, NH 1.000
Stonington, ME .789
Rockland, ME .759
Vineyard Haven, MA .598
Stonington, CT .440
South Norwalk, CT .428
Port Clyde, ME .337
Newport, RI .248
Sandwich, MA .175
Kennebunkport, ME .061
Beals Island/Jonesport, ME .036
Plymouth, MA -.015
Tiverton, RI -.035
Niantic/Waterford, CT -.096
Belfast, ME -.145
York, ME -.231
Cape Porpoise, ME -.240
Searsport, ME -.252
Provincetown, MA -.319
Hingham, MA -.329
Hyannis, MA -.364
Jamestown, RI -.406
Scituate, MA -.481
Boston, MA -.629
Bridgeport, CT -.823
Eastport, ME -1.051
Cutler, ME -1.184
Sakonnet Point, RI -1.446
Northport, ME -1.628
Woods Hole, MA -1.844
Bucksport, ME -1.989

The infrastructure complexity results for New Bedford, Portland, Point Judith, and Gloucester are consistent with information generated from a 1996 study of the Multispecies (groundfish) fishery. 119 Table 6 shows that in 1996, infrastructure, as measured by number of marine equipment suppliers and fish dealers/processors, is consistent with the rankings generated using the infrastructure index presented herein. At the time, numbers of groundfishing permits ranked high for these ports, however there has been a significant decline in permits and infrastructure related items for groundfishing since then.

Table 6. Comparative Fishery Dependency Table for the Five Primary Ports in the MGF in 1996
  New Bedford Gloucester Chatham Portland Point Judith
Repair/supply facilities 35 (5) 12 (2) 15 (3) 21 (4) 11 (1)
Fish dealers/processors 77 (5) 43 (4) 29 (1) 42 (3) 32 (2)
Religious art/architecture dedicated to fishing (1) (1) (0) (0) (1)
Secular art/architecture dedicated to fishing (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Number of MGF permits 128 (4) 219 (5) 110 (3) 60 (1) 78 (2)
Number of MGF vessels 241 (4) 322 (5) 84 (3) 80 (2) 55 (1)
Fishing Dependency Index Score 21 17 11 11 7

In 1996 groundfishing supported a core part of the industry, accounting for between 44 and 53% of their seafood dealing and processing capacity and significant employment. Amendment 7, the groundfish vessel buyback program, reductions in Days at Sea (DAS), and recent closures in the Gulf of Maine have significantly reduced the groundfish fleet as well as the supporting infrastructure for this part of the industry.

Significant groundfish-related infrastructure were also recorded in 1996 for Portsmouth, NH, and Newport, RI and they retain high rankings at 5 (factor score of 1.024) and 12 (factor score of .287) on our 1999-2000 fishing infrastructure scale. According to key respondents, however, development interests are presently threatening Newport’s commercial fishing infrastructure. These interests would like to see the commercial fishing dock space converted into a tourist site, to complement nearby gentrified areas of shops, recreational dock space, and restaurants. The fishing infrastructure, then, is not considered an integral part of the dockside tourist ambiance in Newport. It is instead separated in an enclosed area between a yacht building and docking facility and the gentrified dockside and recreational boating waterfront of the town. Overall, the comparative fishing dependency in 1996 identified five primary ports that remain the top five based on the differentiation scale used in this study.

Other significant ports in 2000 include Rockland, ME (rank of 8, factor score of .759), and Stonington, ME (rank of 7, factor score of .789). Rockland is important as a docking and distribution center for the herring fleet, and individual bait dealers congregate in Rockland and purchase herring dockside. They supply hundreds of fishermen in some fifty nearby communities in the region with herring. The Rockland fishing infrastructure is thus mostly dedicated to serving herring vessels. The infrastructure includes a pump-out facility for herring, and a separation tank for herring scales, used in the manufacture of cosmetics and jewelry.

Stonington (rank of 7, factor score of .789) is the most developed Maine port community dedicated to lobster fishing. Several hundred lobster fishermen live on the Stonington peninsula and dock at the Stonington port and nearby lobster "camps." Lobster camps are located in small coves and harbor a dozen or more boat moorings and nearby shanties for equipment storage. Stonington port also services a few scallopers and groundfishing vessels, and two large fish processing plants lie dormant on the docks. These were previously used to process herring and other finfish, but are now used as storage facilities. Stonington sits on the tip of a peninsula, and is the principal embarkation for fishing families inhabiting residential clusters and villages up and down the peninsula.

Vineyard Haven is a unique port on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, MA, and is best known as a summer tourist mecca. Despite its historical importance as a refuge for the upper class, it has a surprising fishing infrastructure differentiation rank of 9 and a factor score of .598. This port has basically just one of each infrastructure item, but is home to a small but thriving commercial and artisanal fishery of part-time clammers, hook and line fishermen, lobster fishermen, and draggers. These fishermen fill the local demand for fresh seafood products, for local residents year round and for the large number of summer residents. The isolation of the site and its value as a recreational destination for upper class tourists and celebrities contributes to the reliable local demand for seafood products. Thus, being one of the most gentrified of ports does not threaten the small but active commercial fishery. The fleet benefits from high local product demand and the ability of the upscale consumer clientele to pay above average prices. Moreover, the fishing infrastructure, in contrast to Newport’s, is integrated into the local ambiance of the town enhancing the "saltiness" of this island community and continuing to attract appreciative wealthy visitors.

Stonington, CT, with the largest fleet of draggers in Connecticut, ranks 10 on the scale (factor score of .440). Stonington has the only integrated commercial facility in the state where all fishing vessels can dock, and which is protected from incursions by developers through a set-aside agreement with the township. South Norwalk, CN also scores high with a ranking of 10 and factor score of .468. South Norwalk is unique in that it is the operations center for the Talmadge Oyster Co., the largest shellfish operation in the region. Talmadge has dock space for vessels unloading product, and in nearby Bridgeport also has a dockside presence and a shucking operation for oysters. The difference between Stonington, with its set-aside dock, and South Norwalk is that commercial fishing vessels in South Norwalk are not located in one dock area, but are dispersed up and down the river.

This is the case with practically all other commercial fishing enclaves in Connecticut. For example, Groton, with 31 commercial fishermen, and New London, with 24, represent a considerable commercial fishing presence, but the vessels are found in dispersed clusters up and down the river, with no central docking facility for commercial fishing and no plans to construct one. New London does have an older docking facility, dominated by lobster vessels, but this is in considerable decay and only serves about a half dozen vessels.

This dispersed pattern of vessels by port makes it difficult for local economic leaders to recognize and identify with the fishing industry. Such a lack of recognition can be a threat to the survival of existing infrastructure and fishing operations. For example, Bridgeport has no significant fishing infrastructure (rank of 30, with a factor score of -.823), yet there is a cluster of 18 lobster boats that use rented recreational dock space. A major dockside development is planned, but there has been no consultation with or the fishermen or integration of the commercial lobster fishing cluster into the plan. As plans now stand, the 18 vessels in Bridgeport will be displaced from their present docking spaces without being provided with alternative spaces.

4.4. Gentrification and Loss of Infrastructure. Return to Top

Loss of existing port fishing infrastructure stands out as one of the potentially most harmful threats to the health of fishing dependent communities and regions in New England. Many ports now have just the bare minimum of supporting infrastructure, particularly with the losses associated with the regional decline in the groundfishing fleet. The diminishing numbers of fishermen, vessels, processors and supporting services also affects the ability of communities to retain social and cultural capital. Because of the decline in social and economic capital associated with the fishing industry, gentrification is much more difficult to resist.

As demand and prices for shoreside property rise, real estate taxes also mount and owners with modest incomes or life styles are forced to sell their property. Bought out and disenfranchised from their historic spaces and places, their networks of social and cultural capital can be lost. Gentrification can lead to undesirable social and human costs and an overall loss of communal identity. Once such transformations take place, it is difficult or impossible to reverse the process. As fishing infrastructure is lost, space it occupied can be permanently transformed for alternative uses.

Nevertheless, gentrification, like other processes of cultural transformation, is influenced by historical trends. Some ports and regions have adapted well to a history of gentrification, and are able to accommodate varied uses by tourists and seasonal residents. Generally, such communities are accessible by major highways and roads, have adequate support services for development, and have dockside and seaside space for expansion and/or transformation.

Not all communities with a history of gentrification, however, continue to support their fishing industry. Provincetown, MA, at the tip of Cape Cod, is in a very scenic area with wide expanses of natural beaches and dunes. Formerly a thriving fishing village, it has preserved its architectural heritage in its evolution into a summer art colony with a tourist shop and restaurant center that attracts thousands of weekend and summer visitors.120 As the tourist season has extended, the tourist industry has encroached over more of the town. At the same time, the fishing presence has diminished as regulations, an unsympathetic town council, increased operating costs, and declining fish stocks combined with an aging fishing fleet make the occupation more difficult to sustain.

In Downeast Maine, the isolation of the region and lack of beaches and support services makes the small, coastal fishing communities less likely to experience gentrification. Places such as Cutler and Jonesport/ Beals Island, Maine, are on isolated, rocky peninsulas, serviced by long, winding narrow roads that end in sheltered coves and dock areas crowded with lobster fishing boats and an occasional dragger or scalloper vessel. Far from the flow of tourist capital and with little space to offer for alternative developments such as restaurants and hotels, their potential for gentrification is limited. As long as their local biophysical capital holds up, they are unlikely to experience major pressures for change. Nevertheless, interviews with individuals indicated that "those from away" are beginning to make incursions even into some of the isolated communities.

The Stonington peninsula is experiencing gentrification, as are other coastal areas of northern Maine with isolated summer homes being bought up and small artists colonies developing. Lack of highway access keeps the pace of change in many of these areas down. However, recent proposals to build a bypass connecting Wiscassett, Maine to the interstate have residents concerned about losing the quiet character (loss of social and cultural capital) of their communities to tourist traffic.

Introduction of external values goes along with an increasing number of residents ‘from away.’ In Cutler, a newcomer ‘from away’ built a home right near the town dock that blocks the view of a long time resident and interferes with access to a storage facility for local fishermen. This structure was erected despite the pleas of the nearby resident, who has lived in Cutler all his life. According to him, " a local wouldn’t have built it if we asked him not to– and that is a big difference between people from away and people from here– they don’t listen to each other."

Another explanation is that there are few social ties–and consequently little invested social capital–between the newcomers and the long-term residents who have a stake in the traditional fishing "way of life" that has historically held the community together. New coastal residents may be less likely to integrate with the traditional community social networks, resulting in a decline in local social capital and loss of community character–the ‘small town’ effect. This is especially true if the community is used as only a seasonal, retirement residence or if the new residents are part of a suburban influx with jobs outside the community boundaries.

The values newcomers bring are DSP-dominant and emphasize competition and individual success over community solidarity and social cohesiveness. The concomitant loss of local institutions and knowledge could have serious consequences for fisheries management. Co-management and community-based fisheries management show promise for building sustainable fisheries. 121 However, fragmentation of fishing communities (loss of social capital) could hamper such efforts.

The model used here reveals a pattern of change that is consistent with the present gentrification pattern. In general, the farther north you go, the less gentrification you find. The gentrification scale consists of sixteen principal components that explain 36.7% of the sample variance (Table 7). Visitors’ bureaus (.775), marinas (.775), and upscale condominiums (.727) have the highest loading values for gentrification, while whale watching tours (.311), lobster retailers (.330), and maritime museums (.345) rank the lowest. Using these principal components, we have generated rankings of gentrification (Table 8).

Table 7. Principal Components Analyis of Gentrificaiton Indicators

1. Visitors bureau


2. Marinas


3. Upscale condominium


4. Recreational bait shop


5. Fish retailer


6. Recreational tackle


7. Fishing excursion vessels


8. Trendy retail shops


9. Recreational boat tours


10. Seaside restaurants


11. Whale watching tours


12. Recreational boat dealers


13. Hotels/Inns dockside


14. Maritime museum(s)


15. Lobster retailers


16. Whale watching tours



Table 8. Gentrification Rankings of Por ts in the New England NRR.
Port Ranking New England Fishing Port Factor Score
Kennebunkport, ME .959
Plymouth, MA .959
Portsmouth, NH .959
Newport, RI .852
Vineyard Haven, MA .852
Rockland, ME .852
Point Judith, RI .842
Portland, ME .808
South Norwalk, CT .708
New Bedford .702
Jamestown, RI .701
Scituate, MA .663
Provincetown, MA .660
Chatham, MA .621
Niantic/Waterford, CT .584
Hyannis, MA .542
York, ME .491
Hingham, MA .452
Belfast, ME .362
Stonington,CT .288
Gloucester, MA .269
Bridgeport, CT .157
Eastport, ME .070
Sandwich, MA -.024
Bucksport, ME -.041
Boston, MA -.200
Tiverton, RI -.211
Stonington, ME -.808
Woods Hole, MA -.887
Sakonnet Point, RI -.939
Port Clyde, ME -1.315
Searsport, ME -1.545
Cape Porpoise, ME -1.612
Beals Island/Jonesport, ME -2.2090
Culter, ME -2.131
Northport, ME -2.544

The most gentrified ports are Kennebunkport, ME, (factor score .959), Plymouth (factor score .959), and Portsmouth, NH (factor score .959). All three of these ports have developed tourist attractions based on their history. Plymouth and Portsmouth especially herald their historical backgrounds with designated cultural sites and museums, as well as provision of hotels, restaurants, and other facilities to appeal to a wide general population. Kennebunkport, the smallest of the three, is gentrified, but rather than for tourists, it appeals to upper class residents and local owners of historic homes. Though Kennebunkport residents enjoy their exclusivity (even banning food chain restaurants) they recognize and celebrate the town’s historic fishing and farming roots. A bronze statue that rivals the famous fishermen’s statue of Gloucester is a larger than life size statue portrays the revered ‘ancestors’ of the local community — a man and woman reaping the harvest of the sea (a cod fish) and the soil (a basket of food crops).

It is important to note that even though these three communities are the most gentrified, they are also able to support healthy local fishing populations and infrastructure, and do so with enthusiasm. Portsmouth (scale rank of 6th for fishing infrastructure–7th overall) has a state built commercial fishing dock that provides outstanding facility support for the modest but well-sustained local fleet. The commercial facility is protected from development because of its state-sponsored status, and all requisite fishing infrastructure is concentrated around this dock area.

Plymouth ranks fifth overall in fishing infrastructure differentiation for Massachusetts ports and has a rank score of 17th (18th overall out of 36 ports) for fishing infrastructure. The commercial dock at Plymouth is also state funded and the local fishing culture is incorporated into the cultural attractions of the port. Dockside restaurants, for example, are positioned to give patrons a view of the commercial fishing activities, and tourists stroll the docks and take photos of the fishing fleet unloading their catch.

Kennebunkport (scale rank of 15th, 16th overall) with only a dozen commercial lobster boats, supports their fishing activities with an exclusive commercial dock that includes a storage facility for bait as well as dockside ice and fueling. Running a Pearson Correlation between fishing infrastructure differentiation and gentrification, we get a value of 0.467, which is significant for the N = 36, with a Barlett chi-square value of 8.224 and DF = 1. This suggests there is a significant and positive relationship between gentrification and presence of fishing infrastructure when gentrification is historically founded (i.e. it is not a recent process, but one that has roots in the historical development of extant fishing communities).

Community sites with the greatest conflict and potential threat to infrastructure from gentrification are those with waterfronts that are ‘industrial’ in appearance. Places such as New Bedford, Gloucester, and Portland have extensive dockside areas devoted to fishing and fish marketing infrastructure. Built for utility rather than beauty, such places seem antithetical to gentrification. Where the fishing industry is less financially viable than in the past, towns are interested in diversifying and, in particular, attracting tourist dollars. A public official in Gloucester, MA., expressed a desire to see the dockside area transformed for tourism, but as a state "designated port area (DPA)" only true maritime use is currently allowed. Other ports where attempts are being made to reduce industrial scenery include Westport and Newport.

In Newport, though commercial fishing activities have moved away from the tourist center, they continue to be pressured to move farther away. Commercial fishing participants compete for space with a highly active tourist trade and recreational boating sector. Respondents claim competing tourist businesses complain about the sight of fishing gear on the docks and the smell of the fishing activities–"they want them ‘out of sight, out of scent."

Not surprisingly, the least gentrified fishing ports are in Maine (Regions 9 through 11,Table 8). Port Clyde (rank 31), Searsport (rank 32), Cape Porpoise (rank 33), Beals Island/Jonesport (rank 34), Cutler (rank 35) and Northport (rank 36) share common characteristics of isolation, small population size (under 2,000), a reliance on lobster fishing, and a stable resident population. It is not uncommon to find folks who have lived in these communities their entire lives, and, as in Beals Island, rarely venture far from their home.

Although fishing culture dominates in these communities, size and simplicity (the predominance of lobster as the target fishery) result in little fishing infrastructure differentiation for Northport (factor score —1.628, rank 34, Cutler (factor score —1.184, rank 32), Searsport (factor score -.253, rank 23), and Cape Porpoise (factor score -.240, rank 22). The fishing community with the highest fishing infrastructure differentiation rank (factor score .789. rank of 7, 8th overall) compared to its gentrification differentiation rank (factor score of —808, rank of 28, 29th overall) is Stonington, Maine. Stonington is one of the peninsular fishing ports, and has the most differentiated fishing infrastructure for its size along with the low-level gentrification. Key respondents in Stonington emphasized their self-reliance and a strong sense of connection to their space and place, particularly the nearby coastal areas and offshore islands.

110Renee Gagne, personal communication
111Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. 1976. Springfield, MA: Merriam Company Publishers.
112Griffith and Dyer (1996).
113Griffith and Dyer (1996:29).
114The recorded history requirement is particularly onerous for the small vessels that rarely maintained official records of their catch. NMFS did not generally collect statistics from small vessels, so only those who retained sufficiently detailed receipts from buyers are able to prove their history.
115Griffith and Dyer (1996:31).
116Griffith and Dyer (1996:30).
117Davis (2000:C3).
119Griffith and Dyer 1996.
120Griffith and Dyer (1996). On August 9, 2000, The Boston Globe reported that Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management was denied permission to use the State Fish Pier because of the potential negative impacts on Galilee’s fish industry.
121Pinkerton, Evelyn (1989)

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