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Guest Column: Lobstering is the cornerstone of Maine's economy

In recent months, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce was pleased to connect with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA). Lobstering is one of Maine’s most recognized industries. Its roots and heritage run deep in Maine families and communities. The direct economic impact of Maine’s lobster industry is significant. Considering the ripple effect of each dollar earned by lobstermen, it is exponentially greater. In the rest of the country, lobster as a brand has played a major role in putting Maine on the map. There is no question lobster is one of Maine’s biggest and most defining tourism attractions, and there is no denying the lobster industry’s importance to our state’s communities, heritage, and economy. The industry’s survival is critical.

Dana Connors is the president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

It was especially important to the Maine State Chamber to make the connection with MLA at this challenging juncture as the industry faces two major threats to its future and, in fact, its very existence: offshore wind development and federal regulations that seek to protect North Atlantic right whales.

I greatly appreciate our recent conversations with MLA staff and the clearer understanding they have provided regarding these threats. I also appreciate the opportunity they have offered in terms of weighing what Maine can and must do to protect and preserve this industry that is so important to our state.

Regarding offshore wind energy development, while the Maine State Chamber supports Maine’s renewable energy and climate action goals, learning about the deep implications such development has for the lobster fishery has been eye-opening. The MLA’s voice must be a part of the offshore wind conversation. So must be the entire fishing industry’s perspectives, questions, and concerns as Maine advances its strategic roadmap for offshore wind. I am hopeful that our state can find a solution that allows for offshore wind development but does not do so at the expense of the fishing and lobstering industries — sectors our state cannot afford to hold back, harm, or lose.

Recent federal regulations that seek to protect North Atlantic right whales are another example where inclusive conversations must take place ahead of policy decisions and strategies. These federal regulations are absolutely the wrong answer to protect whales. They defy common sense in that they would not save whales but would hurt the lobster industry. Logic, science, and the facts are unquestionably on the side of the lobster industry on this issue, as are Maine’s state and federal government leaders. Furthermore, it is well-recognized that lobstermen have an embedded tradition of going out of their way to make their portion of the ocean safer for whales as part of their dedication to the health of Maine’s fisheries.

The bottom line is that when all stakeholders are at the table, and we listen to one another and are heard and understood, better decisions are made that can accomplish the important goals we are setting out to achieve. We must prioritize these conversations and deepen our understandings in every stage as policies are proposed, developed, and advanced.

Doing so benefits all policy making, and in the lobster industry’s case today, can preserve an important, iconic, and heritage economic sector in our state and the thousands of small businesses, families, communities, and workers it supports.

The seriousness of the challenges facing Maine lobstermen cannot be overstated. Not enough is being said about the industry’s ripple effect, or about the cornerstone lobstering is to Maine’s economy. The value of the lobster industry to Maine is immeasurable.

The Maine State Chamber appreciates the open dialogue and the open door initiated by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and their unwavering commitment to their members. We know we can find solutions to any challenge by listening, following the facts, engaging with one another, and working together. The Maine State Chamber is committed to continuing this important conversation and stands ready to step up to support the Maine Lobstermen’s Association work when and where we can to help protect and preserve Maine’s lobster industry. Too much is at stake for us not to work together on these issues and others that are certain to come.

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