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The Public Wants to Know the Story of Maine Lobster - Guest Column

This just shows that we need to get the story out there and educate people about new-shell lobster because that’s what we mainly catch and now we’re catching so much more than in the past. So if we can get more new-shell lobsters featured in restaurants and on menus, the more demand we’ll have for our product. Getting lobster into more restaurants isn’t the only answer to increasing demand. More and more Maine lobsters are being shipped overseas. The only problem with this is that we all know that the new-shells don’t ship well. This is where lobstermen come into this big circle of lobster life. I’ve had the privilege of hearing the lobster veterinarian Jean Lavallée talk about the intricate workings of lobster anatomy and how best to handle them. There’s a nerve cord and a blood vessel running under a lobster’s tail and if either of those get poked by another lobster that lobster is pretty much a goner. Did you know that if you leave a bleeding lobster out of water for a few minutes it will clot faster? That goes against what my father told me. He always said to “put it in a bucket of water.” Jean is right, however, I’ve tested it. What I’m saying is we need to make a conscious effort to take good care of our lobsters. I know it’s hard to do sometimes. It’s a fast-paced job and if we handled them all like eggs we’d be hauling until midnight every day. I’ve found myself being rough on them when it’s choppy or when the traps are “right to the doors” and we’re all fired up. But it’s one of those things that if we all do a little better then it will make a difference. The more lobsters that make it to market alive the better our product will be. A better product, in my opinion, will eventually help the price. Here in Downeast Maine we don’t have any processing plants. Most of what we catch goes to Canada to be processed and then some of it is shipped back to the U.S. Knuckle and claw meat is going for around $35 per pound . Tail meat is close to $30 per pound. Now I’m no math genius, but when a lobsterman gets paid, let’s say $3.50 per pound, and someone else sells it for $30 per pound, it’s clear that we’re losing money. If we had more processing plants we would have more jobs and I believe we would have a better price. Processed meat is vacuum-packed and frozen and then can be shipped anywhere. The lobster industry is growing, both on and off the water. The people at the MLMC have done a great job so far to promote lobster, but we can’t leave it all up to someone else. People will always want lobster and we need to make sure that it’s high-quality Maine lobster they’re getting. We need to see it on more menus and in more markets. So step up and do whatever you can to promote our lobsters. I talked about lobster on the plane to D.C. to different people who were fascinated by how we catch them and how they shed and grow and migrate. It’s pretty easy to do and it’s up to us. As we say on the VHF, “Put it on to ‘em.”

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