Home » 5th Season » Are Year-Round Islands Off the Coast of Maine Economically Sustainable?

Are Year-Round Islands Off the Coast of Maine Economically Sustainable?

By Emily Taylor, IV Form

Are Year-Round Islands Off the Coast of Maine Economically Sustainable?

Editor’s Note: Emily created this presentation while attending the Waynflete Sustainable Ocean Studies Summer Camp through partial funding from The Matthews Fund. (For better clarity images, click here for Google Slide presentation)

Hurricane once was… now is not. We don’t want this happening to the current year round islands… but why?
I wanted to figure out why this mattered, not only to me but to everyone in Maine and everyone who cares about Maine.
Year round island communities are something that have been a part of maine for a very long time. Holding on to these islands almost maintains the heritage, history, and identity of Maine.
In order to look at islands around the world on a global scale, figuring out how these small Maine islands work on a local scale will help to make a global change. Also, the collaborative information and solutions for islands around the world could be a useful database.
The fishing industry is very prevalent and important on the islands of Maine, so the island communities are important to preserve.

There are approx. four thousand islands off the coast of Maine. Out of these 4000, 300 of them used to be settled on and 100 were year round communities. Now…

There are only 15 year-round communities.

This is  a rather old map from 1998, and the names of the islands vary a little now and the newest year-round island (Great Diamond) is not listed. So this shows 14 of the 15 year round islands and how the communities spread throughout the coast.


These are populations by region and these are year-round, so generally you will see a lot more people during the summer. Great Cranberry has the lowest year round population. You can also see Islesford, which is also known as Little Cranberry, is almost twice the population of Great Cranberry even though it is a third of the size.
Vinalhaven has a high population of almost twelve hundred that doubles in the summer. Most of the populations double in the summer and some of the very touristy spots even triple and quadruple.
Peaks island gets up to about 4000 in the summer.

Schools, Supplies, Shops, Transportation (To the island/On the island + Gasoline), Power, Health care, Income (Tourism, Fishing), Housing:
these all affect ability to sustain the island.
Islands that can support these will be the islands that are sustained for years to come. If these communities cannot support these things, what can we change in the communities so that they are sustained?

For income, lobstering is, of course, the number 1. The following top sources of income include Fishing, Jobs on the Mainland, Boat Making, Painting, Local island-related businesses, Carpentry, Caretaking, Tourism, Construction.
And, we have Larry the lobster here who is super happy here because not only is he the main source of income but the islands have slightly higher average incomes than people on the mainland.

So really what is the catch with lobster?
Well, the problem really isn’t the lobster but the way that island living revolves around lobster. With the warming waters trends, the lobsters will dwindle and then the islands will struggle to sustain themselves.
Lobster dominates the fishing industry in Maine. They make up 78.1% of the fisheries. So what would happen if they were gone?

There are 14 other functioning year-round islands, and lobstering is not always as lucrative as it is in Vinalhaven.

These are all of the challenges with island communities that the Island Institute has identified, and a good number are culture and ecology problems, but of course they tie in with the economic side of sustainability as well.
the Island Institute has also begun to suggest solutions to all the challenges they posed.

NOTE: The largest problem on Monhegan is the price of electricity which is seven times the amount the mainland pays.







Suzanne MacDonald is the energy director on Monhegan and has played animportant role in the road to more affordable energy.
Tess Been has suggested that the largest problem currently all across the board has been affordability.
At this point. the question is: are the islands sustained?

The island communities are thriving, but not to their full capacities.
And, Island living could be improved…




Emily Taylor is a IV Form day student from Marlborough MA. She loves being outside, hiking, and spending time with her siblings.

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