Working waterfronts along the Eastern seaboard are slowly dying out. As rising sea temperatures result in different fish migration patterns and locations, fishermen are struggling to adapt and keep up. The phenomenon is believed by many scientists to be due to climate change—the effects of which are most prominently evidenced on the East Coast according to a 2009 article, “Progress in Oceanography,” which found that waters in the northeast saw their temperatures rise at twice the global rate between 1982 and 2006.
The port of New Bedford, Massachusetts, however, has remained strong. Since 1999 it has been the nation’s number one fishing port, netting 40 million pounds of seafood valued at more than $329 million in 2014, generating economic activity surpassing $1 billion.
Sustaining this economic fruition is a different matter, though. Boston-based consultant Sasaki has produced a study of New Bedford’s waterfront, a scheme that seeks to further the area’s economic longevity.
Proposals vary from advocating investment in particular areas and buildings to introducing other industries to the area. An example of the latter can be seen in the suggestion to enhance access—both public and private—to the Whaling City Seafood Display Auction where national and international buyers bid on fish. “A direct connection between fishing boats and the seafood auctions would improve the efficiency of getting fish to the consumer and make the process a transparent experience for the public,” reported Sasaki. Additionally, this would allow tourists to witness fish trading, something that is popular in, London, Sydney, Tokyo, and even, as Sasaki points out, Chatham, Massachusetts.
As seen in the diagram at the top of the page, Sasaki sorted areas into “water dependency” zones, which helps to form a strategy for future development, allotting certain areas for public interaction and economic activity.
Urban planner and project manager at Sasaki Brie Hensold highlighted the city’s State Pier as another opportunity, describing it as a “lynchpin.” Hensold said that the pier is “heavily dependent” on the water and could be a crucial element for future tourism. In a similar vein as the auction house proposal, Sasaki advocates showcasing New Bedford’s industrial heritage and contemporary operations to tourists and the public. Mystic Seaport, just 80 miles away in Connecticut already does this, charging visitors $26 to walk around the old port and sample its history.