Downeast Fisheries Trail
Celebrates Maritime Heritage in Maine

The maritime heritage of Downeast Maine is being celebrated and illustrated at 45 locations in Hancock and Washington counties that are part of a new interpretive educational initiative.

The Downeast Fisheries Trail, was officially launched at 11 a.m. on Thursday, June 21 at the boat launch and picnic pavilion in Cobscook Bay State Park in Edmunds Township, recognizes the importance of fishing to Maine’s coastal communities. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the proportion of Maine workers employed in commercial fishing industries is more than 10 times the national percentage. Nowhere is this more evident than in Hancock and Washington counties, in which more commercial fishermen are employed than the rest of the state and which account for the majority of clams and lobsters landed in Maine. Many of these same fishermen also harvest elvers, alewives, smelt, crabs, herring, shrimp, scallops, urchins, worms and seaweed. Sea farmers raise Atlantic salmon, mussels, and oysters; fish hatcheries in the region produce endangered sea-run salmon for restoration in Maine rivers.

“The scale of changes facing fisheries in communities today is even greater than the decline of the sardine industry,” says project coordinator Natalie Springuel, a marine extension associate with the University of Maine-based Maine Sea Grant.

“Groundfish like cod were a major fishery up until the 1980s, but that fishery is now virtually non-existent.

Today’s fishermen continue a centuries-long tradition of obtaining sustenance from the sea. Signs of this heritage abound, from fishing weir designs passed down from native Wabanaki inhabitants, to the foundations of sardine canneries that once crowded the working waterfront, to fish houses, salt works and the wooden vessels that sailed into Downeast harbors loaded with cod from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Downeast Fisheries Trail partners unveiled a new interpretive sign at the Cobscook Bay State Park public boat launch during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Downeast Fisheries Trail includes locations from the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport to Campobello International Park in New Brunswick, Canada. In between are museums and historical societies, conservation areas, views of active fishing harbors, and points of historic interest including former flake yards for drying fish, shacks for mending nets, fly-fishing pools and alewife runs.

Maps, photographs, and descriptions of all the sites can be found at Printed maps of the trail can be obtained by calling Maine Sea Grant at (207) 581-1435 or

Contact: Natalie Springuel, (207) 288-2944 ext. 5834 or

WERU broadcast a program about the trail and changes in the fishing industry in Maine on June 22, 2012. Senator Dennis Damon spoke during that broadcast.