Maine’s lobster industry heads into peak season a little later, but with cheaper bait

Published on
July 11, 2017

The Maine and New England lobster season in the United States is nearing its peak, with lobstermen hitting the water using cheaper bait than in past years and organizations such as the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) gearing up for another months-long campaign promoting the catch around the globe.

Starting in June and lasting through the fall is when lobster catch for the New England region is at its largest, according to MLMC, and so the group is beginning to ramp up its promotional efforts to keep pace with supply, it said. 

"Maine Lobster isn't a new product, but as an industry, we need to get people to think about it in new ways," added Scout Wuerthner, general manager at Inland Seafood. "As our catch continues to increase, it's important that we find new ways to market and drive awareness, and targeting influential chefs and media is an effective way to spread the word."

Focusing on four key industry areas – sustainability, seasonality, origin and culinary versatility – the collaborative kicked off the summer with its first “Maine After Midnight” event in Dallas, Texas, which invited chefs, media and innovators to try Maine lobster and to hear its story. Upcoming events are scheduled in Chicago, San Francisco and New York, and incorporate a “lunch and learn” atmosphere as to teach local seafood purveyors about Maine lobster so they’ll be able to relay the information back to the consumer.  The collaborative also plans to facilitate chef and media trips to Maine, and continue to up its digital and social presence, especially as National Lobster Day – observed on 25 September – nears.  

"Attending the Dallas event and seeing first-hand how mysterious our industry is to people in other areas of the country was eye-opening," said lobsterman Brian Billings, of the MLMC event. "Most of us have grown up on the water, and lobstering is part of our lives, but educating these chefs and media on what we do and the passion we have for Maine Lobster was a great opportunity and something we need to continue doing for our industry."

Even though lobstermen in Maine are hauling a little bit later in the season due to cold weather, at least there isn’t a bait crisis looming overhead, as was the case in past seasons, according to a report from The Portland Press Herald. Herring, pogies and alewives are in abundance in bait freezers in 2017, and with herring not running at USD 0.60 (EUR 0.52) per pound as it did last year, lobstermen won’t be as hard pressed financially to keep their bait stocked, Maine Commissioner of th Pat Keliher, commissioner of Maine's Department of Marine Resources, told the newspaper. Popular lobster bait for the Maine industry costs about half as much in 2017 as it did in 2016, Keliher said.

“I won’t say we’re in great shape, but we are in a heck of a lot better shape than we were last year,” Keliher said. 

The season is starting about a month late following cold weather conditions and, as more vessels get to work, the price of bait may rise as the summer wears on.

“The price of bait may go up now that gear is starting to go back into the water,” Keliher said. “It’s hard to say, but so far, it’s definitely a lot better.”

Image caption: It’s officially lobster season in Maine, as a lobsterman prepares his boat and gear before heading out for the day to catch Maine new-shell lobster – available during peak harvest season that runs from July to November. (Image and caption courtesy of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.)  

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