National Working Waterfronts gathering: seeking innovation in coastal communities

Attendees are expected to include local, regional, tribal, and national decision-makers; members of the commercial fishing, marine, and tourism industries; developers and property owners; business owners; community planners; and waterfront advocates.

Across the United States, shorelines are getting squeezed.

Expanding populations, industries, and potential uses for coastal areas add up to increasing conflicts over access to waterfronts. Communities both large and small are seeking creative solutions to address evolving waterfront challenges.

The third National Working Waterfronts and Waterways Symposium — scheduled for March 25-28 in Tacoma, Washington — will address these challenges. The event will provide a forum for diverse users to address common dilemmas, and share solutions.


Washington Sea Grant, in coordination with Oregon Sea Grant, is sponsoring the symposium, where planning professionals, elected officials, and interested citizens can learn first-hand about:

  • Economic and social impacts of and on working waterfronts
  • Successful local, regional, state, and federal strategies to address working waterfront issues
  • The future of working waterfronts, including potential impacts of changing uses and climates
  • Keeping waterfront industries commercially viable

One of the panels, moderated by Ecotrust’s VP for Fisheries Ed Backus, will focus on the way community-based fisheries are inherently intertwined with and dependent on access to working waterfronts and waterways.  Panelists will include members of the Community Fisheries Network, a group of 15 community-based fishing organizations and supporting organizations from around the United States that have joined together to address common challenges faced by small-scale fisheries.  The panel will focus on the critical role working waterfronts play in supporting community-based fisheries and how successful fishing businesses can help communities preserve their working waterfronts. By investing in their infrastructure, their businesses, their communities, their deckhands and crew, and by engaging in creative marketing, small-scale fisheries across the country can help ensure there is enough revenue crossing the wharves they rely on to ensure the long-term sustainability of their communities.

Attendees are expected to include local, regional, tribal, and national decision-makers; members of the commercial fishing, marine, and tourism industries; developers and property owners; business owners; community planners; and waterfront advocates.

Following a 2007 Maine Sea Grant report, Access to the Waterfront: Issues and Solutions Across the Nation, the first national symposium was held in 2007 in Norfolk, Virginia, followed by a second one in Portland, Maine, in 2010.

After the Maine conference, team members secured a grant from the federal government to continue building a network. The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) funded a year and a half study to identify strategies, practical methods, and finance mechanisms to address current economic challenges of coastal communities. The project was a collaborative effort among the Island Institute; the Maine, Virginia, and Florida Sea Grant College Programs; the National Sea Grant Law Center; the Urban Harbors Institute; and Coastal Enterprises, Inc.

The final results from the study will be presented at this year’s conference, which begins with a full day of field trips around the Tacoma waterfront and region.

For more information, contact Washington Sea Grant Coastal Management Specialist Nicole Faghin, conference coordinator, at or 206.685.8286 (office)