Maine to lower Canada lobster industry dependency
Maine Governor Paul LePage on Thursday said that he wants the state’s lobster industry to be much less dependent on the Canadian lobster industry. To that end, his office is working to attract new businesses to open lobster processing plants in the state, he said at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland.
“We are going out...[and] searching and looking for companies that are looking at getting into food processing, particularly fish,” LePage said during a press conference at the Festival.
LePage and other state officials have been looking to boost Maine’s lobster industry after prices hit 30-year lows last summer. Attracting new businesses to Maine is part of the state’s three-year USD 3 million (EUR 2.26 million) promotion and marketing plan that was launched last year.
Some lobster buyers agree with the governor’s plan.
“The Canadian industry hurts [the Maine lobster industry] from a pricing standpoint. They have so much more processing power than we do, hence we have so much surplus but not enough outlets to sell or process,” Mark Murrell, founder and owner of GetMaineLobster.com, told SeafoodSource.
While LePage wants to provide incentives for lobster processors to re-locate or build in Maine, he said the state legislature is hampering those efforts. Funding for the USD 3 million program won’t be available until next year.
While Maine lobster prices did not hit the record lows of last season, they fluctuated significantly from April through June, compared to July through the rest of the summer. “This [spring] was crippling. China came in and bought one million pounds. Overnight, my price per pound literally went up USD 2 (EUR 1.51) a pound and then it was bad for about five weeks,” Murrell said.
Because Murrell sees the same price hike every spring, his company has offered to contract lobster at a set price for the season.
“Last summer, fishing was horrible for them [lobstermen], so I was on the phone saying, ‘I will pay you the same rate year-round’. No one has taken me up on it, but somebody would benefit greatly from taking me up on it,” Murrell said.
Murrell said that sales for GetMaineLobster.com, an online delivery service of live and cooked Maine lobster, have grown significantly since the company started in 2010. “There is growing awareness in the Midwest and California, so there is a massive opportunity. This idea of shipping lobster overnight is still in its infancy,” Murrell said.