Democratic lawmakers say Canadian protests highlight a “serious economic flaw” in state’s economy
AUGUSTA—State Democratic lawmakers are seeking immediate and long term solutions to Maine’s burgeoning lobster crisis. State Senator Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln County) and State Representative Bruce MacDonald (D-Boothbay) have each submitted legislation aimed at supporting and growing Maine’s lobster industry.
Tensions between Maine and Canadian lobstermen have escalated over the summer as Maine lobster prices have hit a low of less than $2.00 a pound. Last week, Canadian lobstermen blocked trucks carrying Maine lobster for processing at Canadian processors. Processing plants were shut down for days as a result of the protests. On Friday, a deal was reached between Canadian lobstermen and Canadian lobster processors.
Sen. Chris Johnson’s bill, “An Act to Defend the Maine Brand and Strengthen the Maine Lobster Industry by Increasing Processing of Lobsters in Maine” intends to expand the visibility and branding of Maine lobster and increase the amount of lobster products processed here in Maine.
“Maine lobster is synonymous with good eating. We need to reclaim that brand and not ship it off to Canada to resell,” said Johnson who also serves on the state’s Marine Resources Committee. “Maine has the best lobstermen and we need to show them we’ve got their backs. We are ready to help level the playing field for this industry so we can be more competitive.”
“The protests in Canada highlight a serious flaw in our state’s economy,” said Rep. Walter Kumiega of Deer Isle, a hub of the lobster industry in Maine. “The opportunity for economic development is staring us in the face. Maine officials should be working to facilitate more processing plants here in Maine and be working together with the industry to launch a large scale marketing campaign to increase demand for our Maine brand lobster.”
Rep. Bruce MacDonald submitted, “An Act to Provide Funds for Lobster Processing Infrastructure,” a bill aimed to furnish low cost loans and technical assistance to anyone developing lobster processing capacity in Maine.
The Canadian government has invested in processing technology and shipping techniques that are lacking in Maine. More than half of Maine lobster is sent to Canada for processing. Maine has only three processing plants to Canada’s 32.
“We need more in-state capacity to process lobster, smarter ways to ship lobster, and better marketing of our brand worldwide,” said Rep. Bruce MacDonald, whose bill would call for a for investment to expand lobster processing in Maine. “We are leaving jobs and handing a competitive edge to Canada by not making these critical investments.”
Sen. Johnson and Reps. MacDonald, Kumiega, and Ralph Chapman (D-Brooksville) have been talking with industry leaders and will be attending the Lobster Advisory Council meeting on Thursday at 4:00 p.m.
Johnson added, “This is an opportunity. We can get out of this crisis choosing to do things the same old way or we can work for more permanent solutions to sustain our fishing families. Just because there’s no silver bullet doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything we can to work with Maine lobstermen and businesses.”