Recently signed bills should provide boost for lobster industry

ELLSWORTH — The 126th Legislature has had a tough time enacting legislation that would pass muster with Governor Paul LePage, but members of the Marine Resources Committee have a better record than many of their fellow legislators.

Last month, LePage signed two bills that could provide substantial benefits to the Maine lobster industry and help fishermen take advantage of historically high landings.

On June 20, LePage signed LD 486, a bill that will increase the budget for promoting Maine lobster roughly eightfold. A few days later, the Governor signed a bill increasing the number of traps each lobsterman is allowed to fish in the Swan’s Island lobster conservation zone from 475 to 550.

Once its provisions are fully implemented, LD 486 should bring a substantial change to the way Maine lobsters are marketed.

The new law establishes the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative which will come into being in September, 90 days after LePage signed the legislation. The new entity will replace the Maine Lobster Promotion Council.

Like the body it replaces, the new collaborative will be funded through a system of tiered surcharges on the license fees charged lobster harvesters, dealers and seafood processors. Unlike the Promotion Council, the collaborative will receive serious funding.

In 2014, the surcharges will range from $55.25 for a Class I lobster license to as much as $1,333 for lobster processors that handle more than 1 million pounds of raw lobster. In 2015, the surcharges will essentially double, ranging from $110.25 to $2,666. By 2017, the surcharges will range from just over $165 to $4,000.

Over the next two fiscal years, it is anticipated that the collaborative’s budget will total some $2.25 million.

The budget for the Maine Lobster Promotion Council is approximately $350,000 annually.

Aimed at establishing an aggressive, effective effort to market Maine lobster, the legislation drew support from the Department of Marine Resources and from a large segment of the state’s lobster industry.

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Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]