LePage to Government:
Get Out of the Way

by Laurie Schreiber

Governor Paul LePage spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum on March 4. ©Photo by Sam Murfitt

Once the federal and state governments get out of the way of the private sector, the fishing industry and other businesses will be able to prosper, Governor Paul LePage told a standing-room-only crowd at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum on March 4.

“As the governor of the great state of Maine my number one priority is prosperity,” LePage said, adding that Maine’s fishing industry is critical to the prosperity of coastal communities, and to all of Maine. He said he recognized the industry as stewards of the marine resources.

“It’s a tradition that must continue and it’s a tradition that, we as Maine people, need to push against our federal government that’s trying to get us off the waters,” he said.

LePage called for the federal government to provide regulatory flexibility so that the fishing industry can find creative ways to drive jobs and expand, both on the water and on the shore.

“We have to convince the federal government that we’re not hurting the resource, we’re sustaining the resource,” he said. “But they have to give us the flexibility we need to operate… The problem is, the national government has stopped listening to the 50 states. And they make onerous rules and regulations that cannot be reasonably enforced in a way that fishermen can prosper. And it’s not just fishing, it’s forestry, it’s farming, it’s just about everything that’s being done… All 50 governors are on the same page. We need flexibility. Tell us what the end game is, and then get out of the way and let us do it. Because we have the skills, the knowledge, the experience and the desire to run our industries, sustain our resources and to prosper and to grow our families. And that’s the bottom line that we’re trying to tell the federal government.”

The indications for greater prosperity are already in the works, he said.

“Those who work in management and harvesting have a great deal to be proud of this past year,” he said. “In 2010, Maine fishermen landed over 240 million pounds of seafood and 56 million pounds of herring, valued at half a billion dollars. These total landings were up from 2009 by 14 million pounds with an added value of $120 million. Maine lobstermen hauled a record harvest last year of 93.3 million pounds worth over $308 million. This exceeded 2009 by 12 million pounds and $71 million.”

Also, said LePage, output from the Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry this past year nearly doubled.

“We all know that, in order to maintain Atlantic salmon, we have to farm them,” he said. “This past year, the crop grew from 13 million pounds to over 24 million pounds, from $36 million to $77 million. So increasing the aquaculture products is one way we can continue to grow the fishing industry in Maine.”

LePage said the fishing and aquaculture industries can further benefit by expanding the processing sector.

“When lobstermen have a good year, the positive effects are felt throughout the coast of Maine,” he said. “That’s not going to be enough. We need to increase the value of our fish and the lobster that are caught at the raw, boatside level. How do we do that? We need to have processors so we can have the added value placed on the product in Maine, branded Maine products, and continue to make Maine the best seafood in the world.”

LePage said the state needs to develop incentives to bring groundfishing back to Maine, by allowing fishermen to find better ways to fish and protect the resource.

“This legislative session, the Taxation Committee gave unanimous approval to a bill to end the collection of sales tax on fuel used by Maine groundfishing vessels, as one way of evening the playing field with Massachusetts,” said LePage. “We will continue to remove impediments to the processing sector, to give them the flexibility to create the products that today’s consumer demands. When Maine processors have the freedom to innovate, the opportunities are endless.”

LePage said he has charged Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Norman Olsen to work closely with the business sector.

“We, as a state, will not prosper until the private sector prospers,” he said. “My job as governor is to convince the agencies in Augusta to work very closely with you as a partner, not an adversary. And I pledge to you, for the next four years, I am going to be saying 'what does thebusinessman need and want, and what is he saying about how we can help them become more profitable?' Because without you being profitable, you cannot create jobs, you cannot invest in resources. So by working together, we can generate more opportunities to enhance the lives of Maine people.”


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