Massachusetts state senate supports new lobster processing rules

The Massachusetts, U.S.A., state senate adopted an amendment on 25 May that would lift limits on lobster processing, sale, and transportation within the state. 

Currently, lobstermen and seafood vendors in Massachusetts are required to send lobster out of state for processing, then ship it back in to sell within the state again. Roughly 80 percent of lobster landed inside the state is then sent out of state for processing. 

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) sponsored the measure, which received unanimous support.  

“Massachusetts has the second-largest lobster catch in the country, to keep from being left behind we should expand our ability to process raw and frozen lobster parts. American lobsters are being harvested here and should be prepared for market here instead of Canada or Maine,” said Senator Tarr. “The net effect of modernizing the law will bolster local economic activity and give local restaurants and food stores superior access to the best lobster parts for their customers.”

The amendment, which will affect the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget bill, will direct the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries to change the regulations to allow on-shore processing of lobsters, in addition to assessing whether the new regulations would harm the state’s lobster stock or sustainability. 

“The time has come to eliminate such outdated restrictions on lobster processing and sales in the Commonwealth. Easing constraints on processing operations will allow a thriving industry to further invest in our local economy through expanding operations and creating new jobs, especially in New Bedford. I commend Senator Tarr’s leadership and am proud to have partnered with him in seeing this through to passage. It is my hope the House will finally accept this measure in conference and get it on the Governor’s desk.” said Senator  Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), cosponsor of the legislation. 

Selling live, cooked, and canned lobster is currently legal within the state, but other lobster products like unfrozen lobsters, unfrozen shell-on lobster parts and tails, and previously frozen raw in-shell tails, are all forced to be processed out of state. Shifting that in-state will benefit the state’s economy, and the lobster industry, said State Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport). 

“The amendment adopted in the Senate’s budget works to ensure the sustainability and viability of the state’s lobster industry,” Rodrigues said. “This measure will benefit both consumers and lobstermen in coastal communities statewide”

Existing rules on minimum shell size, trap limits, and more will remain in place. 


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