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SaveMaineLobstermen Summer Continues Along the Coast

First published in Landings, September 2023

When the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) kicked off its #SaveMaineLobstermen campaign in November 2021, one of the things we asked folks to ponder was “what would Maine be without lobster?” This summer, we learned just how much the lobster means to our state as our small team spread out to attend festivals and celebrations up and down the coast.

On Saturday, July 29, we loaded the car with #SaveMaineLobstermen and MLA merchandise and headed to Milbridge for the 2023 Milbridge Days celebration. The theme of this year’s festival, celebrating the town’s 175th birthday, was “Party like a LobStar!” and they sure did! The weekend festival featured concerts, a grand parade, events for kids, and (of course!) the annual Fire Department Lobster Cookout. We dare say thousands of people filled the streets and stopped by the MLA booth on Main Street to purchase gear, renew their membership, learn about the work MLA is doing, or just say hi. Special thanks to the festival committee and especially Cathy Chipman for inviting MLA to be a part of this wonderful community celebration.

Kevin Kelley, left, and MLA President Kristan Porter at Helen's Restaurant in Machias. J.Barker photo.

On August 3, the MLA, in collaboration with the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance (MLCA), was delighted to announce a partnership with the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland to raise awareness of the importance of the Maine lobster industry, and the families and communities it supports, through the #SaveMaineLobstermen campaign.

At a news conference announcing the first-ever partnership between our industry advocacy organizations and the popular Lobster Festival, MLA chief operating officer Amber-Jean Nickel, who is also president of the MLCA, thanked Festival Director Shannon Kinney for working with our organizations to help raise awareness and funds with donation buckets around the event.

“The Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association are pleased to be working closely with leadership of the Maine Lobster Festival to not only showcase our state’s iconic lobster, but to highlight the generations of hardworking men and women who have dedicated their life to ensuring the future of this sustainable fishery,” said Nickel.

“Now more than ever, it is important that we all raise awareness and show our unwavering support for the Maine lobster industry as they face enormous downward price pressure, lower catches and rising costs, limitations and boycotts related to right whales, and much more. This industry drives our economy here in the Midcoast and throughout Maine and has supported many families here for generations. It is also an industry that takes sustainability and conservation VERY seriously. We need to stand with our lobstermen and women to do all we can to help the cause. The Maine Lobster Festival is proud to be part of the Save Maine Lobstermen campaign and these organizations’ important work," said Kinney.

The MLA's tent and the cheerful face of office administrator Mindy Coath have been familiar sights along the coast this summer. MLA photo.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Rockland Mayor Louise MacLellan-Ruf also participated in the news conference.

Both the MLCA and MLA were delighted to be included in this year’s Festival and plans are already in the works to have an even bigger presence next year!

We barely had time to restock the shelves of our #SaveMaineLobstermen gear store before we had to pack the car yet again and head on over to Machias for the 46th Annual Machias Wild Blueberry Festival on Saturday, August 19th.

There is no question that both the blueberry and lobster loom large over the economy of Downeast Maine, and MLA was pleased to have a booth in the courthouse lot along with several other local organizations and craftspeople. MLA board president Kristan Porter spent the afternoon selling #SaveMaineLobstermen T-shirts and sweatshirts and talking about the challenges facing the lobster industry to folks from all over the country. No matter where they live, though, they all had one thing in common — their support for Maine’s lobster industry. Without fail, everyone who came over to our booth stopped by to say they stand with our lobstering families and to encourage MLA to keep up the good fight!

Later that evening, Kristan brought the fundraising effort down the road to Helen’s Restaurant where he was the guest “barback” for the evening. Kristan took drink orders from those waiting for a table in return for a “Fill the Boot” donation. This event was inspired by successful guest bartending nights last winter at The Penalty Box in Damariscotta. We raised a little money for MLA’s Legal Defense Fund and helped spread the word about the work MLA is doing to protect our fishing families and communities.

If you have a local bar or restaurant in your town that might be interested in hosting a guest MLA bartender for a fundraising event, shoot me an email at kevin@mainelobstermen.org and we’ll get it set up!

While summer 2023 may be slowly coming to an end, the work to protect Maine’s lobstering heritage will continue. Watch for additional details after Labor Day, but definitely makes plans to save Friday, November 10 to join us for Maine Lobster Night at the Maine Mariners hockey game in Portland. Can you believe we’re already talking about ice?!

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