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Save Maine Lobstermen Campaign Grows Ever More Important

First published in Landings, November 2022

Anger about the Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch’s ill-informed listing of American lobster as a “red list” seafood species coupled with frustration stemming from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) mandate of an immediate 90% reduction in entanglement risk to North Atlantic right whales has created an outpouring of support from throughout Maine for the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) Save Maine Lobstermen campaign this fall.

“The Maine lobster industry has done everything it has been asked to do and more,” said Debbie Gagnon, co-owner of Red’s Eats in Wiscasset. “We’re able to do what we do because they do what they do.” Gagnon teamed up with the MLA to launch its fall fundraising challenge, urging all businesses that rely on a strong lobster industry to contribute to the Save Maine Lobstermen campaign. Red’s Eats itself contributed $2,500 to the campaign.

Four dollars of each bag of Save Maine Lobstermen coffee will go to the legal campign. Mornings in Paris photo.

Portland lobsterman Richard Black organized a lobster feed fundraiser in October at the Pizza Villa in Portland. “I was out hauling and the owner called up and asked ‘what can we do about this nonsense’,” Black said, referring to the Seafood Watch listing. “We decided to do a small clambake behind the restaurant, and it just escalated from there.” Escalate it did, with hundreds of lobsters donated by Casco Bay Seafood and four other lobstermen who berth with Black on Union Wharf. In the end, more than $6,000 was donated from the afternoon event to the Save Maine Lobstermen campaign.

“It’s the injustice of the whole thing,” Black commented about NMFS’s actions. “There’s no data against us and tons on ship strikes. Why are these people running over the top of us?”

The owners of Jess’s Market in Rockland decided that they wanted to help as well. The market advertised to customers that it would donate 15% of all lobster sales, which included live, cooked, and meat bought in the store and online during one week in September. That week included Friday, September 23, when people throughout Maine wore red to show solidarity with lobstermen. In the end Jess’s donated $2,144 to the campaign.

Rockland's 2022 Sea Goddess brings attention to Jess's Market's fundraiser. S, O'Brien photo.

“We saw a lot of enthusiastic customers wearing red and eating lobster while contributing to your legal fund. We greatly appreciate all your association does for the lobster industry here in Maine,” Sharon O’Brien, co-owner of the business, wrote with the donation.

Beals Island resident and lobsterman’s wife Amanda Smith is a member of Downeast Housewives for the Fishing Industry, a tongue-in-cheek name for a dedicated group of wives and partners of lobstermen. “My husband and two brothers-in-law are lobster fishermen, my father-in-law lobster fished, and our three nephews are all lobster fishermen," Smith said.

She and other members of the group organized “Supporting Our Heritage: Maine’s Lobster,” a September 26 rally on Beals. Jonesport school children set up a lobster roll and lemonade booth at the event. “It was after the red listing came out and we wanted to feel useful. People came to the rally from all around and the kids sold a lot of lobster rolls,” she said. In the end the children’s efforts resulted in a $1,198 donation to the Save Maine Lobstermen campaign.

Smith reflected on the anguish many lobstermen and their families are experiencing right now. “A lot of guys don’t know what to do. They are facing the loss of everything they know and have put their hearts into,” she said. “Trap companies are laying off and people are losing their jobs. A lot of lobstermen don’t even have the words to use to describe how they feel.”

Tony Esposito, owner of Dover Ford and Union Fair Auto Sales, dedicated one month of radio advertising to raise awareness of the Save Maine Lobstermen campaign and pledged $200 for every auto sold in October. Starting in November, Friend & Friend Powersports in Ellsworth will donate $100 for every new, adult-size unit sold. And Paul Hastings, owner of Mornings in Paris coffee shops in Kennebunk and Ogunquit, has brewed a special coffee blend, known as the #SaveMaineLobstermen Brew, and will donate $4 for every pound sold.

Treats back in 2012. The company makes lobster crackers for people and pets. Greg’s father Wayne, grandfather Stillman, great-grandfather Chester and great-great-grandfather Lewis all lobstered. The couple’s oldest son Andy is also a lobsterman; his three children lobster in the summer. The family understands fully the significance of NMFS’s actions, which could shut down a centuries-old fishery.

They came up with a new way to raise money for the Save Maine Lobstermen Campaign: a catnip fish. Buster’s Homegrown is a cat toy made using lobster fabric and filled with catnip. Thus far, Friendship Lobster Treats has donated $400 to the campaign.

Every little bit counts.

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