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Rising fuel prices hit Maine's commercial fishermen

Commercial fishermen in Maine have to buy fuel on a weekly basis, but diesel costs for boats are hitting $7 a gallon.

FREEPORT, Maine — The rising gasoline and diesel costs are hitting Maine's boating culture and industry hard.

"It's a necessary evil. If you're going to enjoy your time on the water, you need to pay the price, whatever the fuel cost," Dave Tyson, a fishing guide in Freeport, said.

Tyson said around 15% of his gross income from tours goes back to gasoline for his boat. He recently added a fuel surcharge to his tours to offset the increase in fuel prices, which he said doubled from the beginning of the year.

"I'm driving a little slower for one, not using as much fuel. I'm turning the boat off more often when we get to spots just drifting with the current," Tyson said.

The high prices of fuel are also hitting boat works and marinas.

"So it's definitely going to hit the bottom line for everybody," John Brewer, president of Brewer and Strouts marinas, said.

Brewer added boat shipment and maintenance are also taking a hit from inflating fuel surges.

"I had a feeling it was coming our way, and here we are," Brewer said.

In Yarmouth at Yankee Marina and Boatyard, boaters reported the same issues.

"I'm sure it's on everyone's mind," Adam White, service manager, said. "The impact it's going to have on our commercial fishing guys is something I can't even imagine. That's the real problem."

When looking at the fuel costs for commercial fishers, the problem does seem to increase among that industry.

"We burn 600 gallons a day. You figure six times 10. You do the math. It's a $60,000 fuel bill," Michael Irving, captain of The Patriot, in Portland, said.

Irving spent the afternoon untying knots in his dragnet targeting groundfish. He said he didn't make any money last week because of the diesel fuel increase.

"We're going to try and feed America, but we can't not go out and catch fish. It is a living, you know. We're just going, and we don't get paid for it. The boats have to go either way," Irving said. "I don't know. It's ludicrous. It's stupid," Irving said. 

In the meantime, Vessel Services, which supplies fuel and ice to southern Maine fishers, said the rising fuel costs could impact fish prices if left untreated.

"Historically, the price we're currently seeing is a record. We've never seen anything close to these prices," Michael Foster, general manager of Vessel Services, said. "They've been looking for a rebound year to increase business, but this certainly puts a cap on that."

He said he'd seen a decrease in fishers going out weekly but added most commercial fishers have no choice but to go out. Foster said the best thing Mainers can do to help out commercial fishers is to buy Maine fish.

"Even if that price is a little higher than you want to pay, it's the way fishermen make their money. Every time you pay a little extra, you're allowing them to continue to do what they do to make a living," Foster said.

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