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Maine lobster (Photo: Roberto Rodriguez)

Maine's lobster industry gathers to brainstorm solutions

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Friday, January 18, 2013, 04:40 (GMT + 9)

Given the hardship faced by the lobster industry in 2012, a month-long series of meetings is being held across the coastal towns of Maine by the Division of Marine Resources (DMR) to discuss issues ranging from marketing to potential changes in the licensing system and market crashes. 

Last year, Maine’s industry caught a record 123 million lb of lobster, up 18 per cent year-on-year in volume, but down USD 3.7 million in value compared to 2011, to USD 331 million. The leading cause was a glut of soft-shell lobsters, which pushed prices to rock bottom, and protests held against Canadian processors who bought cheap Maine lobsters.

So far, no workable ideas have been agreed upon to prevent such a situation from reoccurring.

"We don't know if it will happen again. Do we need to do something? I hear up and down the coast that we need to do something but we don't know what," said DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher, Portland Press Herald reports.

DMR will take comments throughout January to help draft proposed legislation that could be submitted to the governor at any time during the session, he said.

Tim Harkins, president of Rocky Coast Lobster Co in Arrowsic, worries that the DMR-led meetings cover too broad a spectrum of topics and are not focused enough.

"They are trying to cover a lot of territory and these are very complicated issues," he said.

For example, while Keliher saw much support for the idea of pursuing a marketing effort to brand Maine lobster and boost demand, no agreement was reached on how a marketing group would be established, funded or overseen.

Another measure being discussed is that of seasonal adjustments to the minimum size of lobster that can be fished to avoid a repeat of the glut, as if Maine’s minimum catch size was increased for a few weeks, lobsters that normally could be landed would have to be dumped back into the sea, Bangor Daily News reports. 

Yet another idea being tossed around is to have a new tiered licensing system. 

In addition to a possible lobster glut in 2013, lobster fishers are also facing rising diesel fuel prices.

Related article:

- Lobster landings reached new record in 2012, but prices plunge 


By Natalia Real


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