PORTLAND — U.S. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, thinks it would be a great idea if the cruise ships that bring tens of thousands of visitors to Portland each year were to serve locally harvested lobster to their guests.
Pingree on Monday announced in a press release that she had written letters to the owners of 15 cruise ship lines, urging them to buy lobster from Maine fishermen for their passengers while in port.
Pingree said she wrote the letter because the cruise ship industry serves a lot of lobster to its passengers but the ships that visit Portland have not typically ordered lobster from local suppliers.
In one letter sent to Micky Arison, Chief Executive Officer of Carnival Cruise Lines, Pingree wrote: “I am writing to you today to strongly urge you to consider buying fresh-off-the-boat Maine lobster when the Carnival Glory calls in Maine this year. Maine lobstermen are in the middle of a record breaking season.
“Not only does the ample supply guarantee a good value for your company, but purchasing locally sourced seafood would set a great example for other companies like yours in strengthening Maine’s economy and coastal communities,” Pingree wrote. “In fact, the vitality of our fishing industry is inextricably linked to the health and character of the coastal communities that entice and thrill your passengers.”
Fifteen cruise ships are scheduled to make a total of 60 visits to Portland this year, according to city documents.
More than 69,000 passengers are scheduled to visit Portland via cruise ships this year, the documents show.
“This could be a big untapped market for wholesalers in the area,” Pingree said. “And sometimes in a situation like this you just have to get the attention of the head of these big corporations to get them to notice what we have to offer here in Maine.”
Willy Ritch, Pingree’s spokesman, said the congresswoman is not suggesting the cruise ship passengers only be fed only lobster for their meals but that they have locally harvested lobster offered for dinner on their arrival or departure from Portland.
Ritch said Pingree is serious and plans to follow up on her letters by speaking directly with cruise industry executives this week.
Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.