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MLMC Steps up For Maine’s Lobster Industry

The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) found itself in a delicate situation last year. The Collaborative’s mission is to build demand for Maine lobster. Yet national environmental organizations had focused public attention on the decline in the North Atlantic right whale population and a spate of recent deaths, which, the organizations contended, was due to the presence of vertical lobster buoy lines in the water. The reputation of the Maine lobster fishery, a globally-recognized sustainable fishery pursued by small owner-operators, was at stake.

The Collaborative acted quickly to counter incorrect information about Maine lobstermen and the fishery. “We have always acted to protect the reputation of the industry, whether it’s been against other organizations like PETA or about climate change. We recognized that lobstermen were frustrated about how they are portrayed in the media,” said Marianne LaCroix, executive director of the MLMC. The Collaborative produced a fact sheet about the industry for consumers and seafood buyers, which was re-vamped and re-released this spring. Several videos on the MLMC’s web site and a specifically dedicated web site ( further emphasized the conservation aspects of the fishery and the sustainable practices of the men and women who harvest lobsters along Maine’s coast.

The MLMC also created a technical fact sheet on ropeless fishing, a technology being developed that uses acoustic monitors to release traps from the seafloor. Environmental organizations have advocated strongly for instituting ropeless fishing throughout the right whales’ territories. The fact sheet, created specifically for seafood dealers, documents why such technology, now in its infant stage of development, would not be practical in the U.S. lobster fishery.

The MLMC web site,, gives the facts about the many actions Maine lobstermen have taken to protect right whales.

In addition, the MLMC conducted a consumer survey to discern what effect the barrage of unfounded accusations about the lobster industry’s role in the right whale decline has had on consumer preferences.

“We conducted the survey last year in June. We found that most consumers did not know about the issue and among those that did, it hadn’t affected their buying habits,” LaCroix said.

The Collaborative plans to conduct a similar survey this year with added questions concerning what messages are reaching consumers and their general impression of Maine lobstermen.

This summer the MLMC will continue to focus on its own message — that the Maine lobster fishery is a sustainable fishery based on conservation practices going back decades — with a series of stories for East Coast television stations. Reporters will be able to remotely ask questions of lobstermen while camera crews record the interviews. The pre-recorded video stories will be available to stations for use whenever they wish; the video material also will be used by the Collaborative.

In 2020, the Marine Stewardship Council suspended certification of the Maine lobster fishery due to legal issues following the federal court case against the National Marine Fisheries Service brought by environmental organizations. The blue MSC label is a “must have” for seafood buyers throughout the U.S. and abroad. “Suspension could be a problem for retail buyers,” LaCroix said. “So we put out information informing them of the specific reasons behind it. We want buyers to have confidence in the product.”

LaCroix recognizes the numerous changes Maine lobstermen have made over the last 20 years to better protect right whales. As she sees it, the MLMC’s job is to ensure that consumers also recognize those actions. “The whales shifted to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a new habitat. They are not frequenting Maine waters as they once did. So even if Maine does make additional changes , it will not be able to save the whales by itself. We don’t want everyone to breathe a sigh of relief if Maine does make significant changes because those won’t save the whales,” she said.


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