The promotion of Maine lobster got a $2 million-a-year boost from a law establishing a new marketing effort for the fishery.
Gov. Paul LePage has signed off on L.D. 486, a long-debated legislative proposal creating the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative to replace the Lobster Promotion Council.
Earlier this spring, the legislation had generated sometimes bitter debate across the industry, from lobstermen to dealers and processors, because those groups will be footing the bill for the planned global marketing campaign.
Just how to divvy up the $2 million annual budget proved to be more complicated than many in state government expected.
Through surcharges that vary depending on the type of license a lobster harvester, dealer or processor holds, the marketing collaborative will fund promotional efforts to brand Maine lobster and demonstrate its culinary versatility, particularly in areas of the world that might increase consumption.
The law increases the council’s budget from $350,000 to $2 million, but even the higher figure represents a mere 1 percent of the industry’s yearly sales, said Emily Lane, chairwoman of the Lobster Promotion Council, the precursor to the collaborative.
For 2013, surcharges will range from $31.25 to $250, and the most common lobster harvesters’ licenses will run $62.50 to $93.75. Details of the surcharges are available from the text of the legislation, said Jeff Nichols, director of communications for the Department of Marine Resources, at www.mainelegislature.org/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280046996.
Though the collaborative will not be formed officially until September, the marketing effort has already begun, Lane said. A fundraiser was held in New York City to promote Maine lobster, with proceeds going to survivors of Hurricane Sandy. Four Korean chefs and a distributor from Seoul also recently made a tour of the Maine lobster industry, with promising signs that distribution of lobster in Korea could increase, she said.
L.D. 486 had hit a number of snags as the plan moved through the Committee on Marine Resources earlier this year. Several formulas for the surcharges had been considered, but committee members and the Department of Marine Resources found it difficult to devise an equation that could garner support from all the affected groups. The final surcharges represent a compromise that was months in the making.
“The lobster resource here in Maine is the strongest it has ever been, thanks to conservation measures that have been developed and supported by industry,” Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said in a news release. “This tremendous supply has posed a challenge and an opportunity to create new markets, both here in the U.S. and overseas.”
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