February 24

Closure to affect hundreds of Maine lobster, crab harvesters

Others wonder how the closure of the Penobscot River area will reflect on the Maine lobster brand.

By Jessica Hall jhall@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

“The DMR’s information is to the point, timely, demonstrates concern for public safety, communicates ongoing monitoring and testing, cites credible data, shows the need for public trust, and it does not appear at first glance to be dismissive,” he said. “There is a sober balance required in these communications that needs to be struck between dismissing concerns and unnecessarily heightening anxieties, and I believe they’ve done that.”

However, another crisis management expert said the issue will damage the reputation of Maine lobsters as a wholesome product.

“It’s going to hurt the brand,” said Davia Temin, a consultant from New York. “There is no way it’s not going to hurt the brand.”

She said people who eat Maine lobsters regularly don’t know if they came from the area that has been closed. She said many of those people will feel that their trust in state regulators has been violated.

“I think people could be angry,” she said.

FISHERMEN TO TAKE A HIT FOR AWHILE

State officials said the mercury contamination was revealed in a court-ordered study related to a federal lawsuit filed by the Maine People’s Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council against Mallinckrodt Inc. The company is the current owner of a plant that operated from 1967 to 2000 in Orrington, upriver from the area that will be closed to lobster and crab harvesting. Environmentalists have said for years that the plant’s former owner, HoltraChem, dumped mercury into the Penobscot River.

“I hope, if indeed they are found guilty, that they are held accountable,” said Wyman, the fisherman in Stockton Springs.

He said he doubts that the area’s tourism business will be affected because lobster from other parts of the coast will be fine.

“It should only affect the guys fishing. It’s a big hit, but necessary,” Wyman said.

Fishermen said it would be impractical to move lobster and crab traps to different areas. The crabs tend to locate in a condensed area of the river, so it would be pointless to fish for them elsewhere. Plus lobstermen tend to be territorial, and won’t welcome interlopers from the Penobscot area.

“You can’t move into another guy’s area. It’s not really welcomed,” said Perkins, who has set a portion of his traps in the area to be closed.

Perkins questions whether the lobsters and crabs will be safe to eat in two years, and whether potentially contaminated lobsters will migrate to other areas.

“My biggest concern is that lobsters are highly migratory, and the same lobster that will be there this summer will be moving down,” Perkins said. “There’s no way to track the lobster. Crabs move a little, but they aren’t as migratory as lobster.”

An extended closure will hurt not just fishermen, but lobster and crab processors as well, he said.

Laurie Seekins, who owns a crab processing company, Water World II in Bucksport, said she doesn’t think she will be affected by the closure because she gets her crab from towns farther away.

“Maybe demand will go up for good crab and prices will go up,” Seekins said. “Maybe it will help us.”

Staff Writer Tom Bell contributed to this report.

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@pressherald.com

CORRECTION: This story was updated on Monday, Feb. 24, 2013 to correct that Greg Perkins has been fishing for seven years, not 10, and fishes as sternman on a boat owned by Ken Wyman.

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