Tuesday, March 11, 2014
The iconic Maine lobster has become a little more special.
Lobsters are unloaded from a fishing boat in Portland in this August 2012 photo. Efforts to market and brand Maine lobster have gained momentum in the wake of last year's glut, when supply exceeded demand and resulted in the lowest per-pound prices in more than 20 years.
The state's lobster fishery got the international Marine Stewardship Council's Sustainable Seafood Certification. That distinction, which recognizes ecologically sound practices from the harvest to the consumer, will help in the marketing and tracking of Maine lobster, according to the state Department of Marine Resources.
"The Marine Stewardship Council's certification will provide the Maine lobster industry with a globally-recognized seal of approval," Gov. Paul LePage said in a prepared statement at the International Boston Seafood Show on Sunday. "This certification recognizes our longstanding practices of good stewardship and ensures that every lobster caught in Maine waters can be marketed not only as delicious, healthy food, but also as a resource that meets the most stringent international environmental standard for seafood sustainability."
Certification gives Maine lobster an advantage in marketing to the growing number of retailers and consumers around the world who place a premium on seafood harvested in an environmentally responsible, sustainable way. Companies such as Walmart and McDonald's have committed to buying MSC seafood.
Efforts to market and brand Maine lobster have gained momentum in the wake of last year's glut, when supply exceeded demand and resulted in the lowest per-pound prices in more than 20 years. Last year, Maine lobstermen hauled a record 123 million pounds of lobster, up 18 percent from the year before. The total value of the catch, however, eased 1.1 percent to $331 million.
The lobster industry last week voiced support for increased licence fees that would be used to expand the marketing budget for Maine lobster.
Industry veterans said the MSC certification will help Maine market the lobster to companies who demand such eco-friendly certification and consumers who expect their seafood to come from sustainable sources.
"MSC Certification is not 'the be all and the end of all' of Maine Lobster's marketing efforts. But, it is an important piece of the marketing puzzle," said John Hathaway, president of Shucks Maine Lobster. "We are trying to rebuild the Maine lobster brand. We have a great story to tell about our Maine lobster fishery. We want people to trust that brand. Today is a major step in helping achieve that goal."
The Marine Stewardship Council is an international certification program for wild-capture fisheries. MSC certification is the only seafood certification program that meets all the major international standards on sustainable fishing, ecosystem protection, and eco-labeling. There are more than 100 fisheries worldwide that are MSC certified.
To achieve MSC certification, fisheries are evaluated on the health of the fish stock, marine ecosystem protection, and the effectiveness of fishery management. The MSC certification program includes a process for tracing each certified lobster to the exact boat on which it was caught.
"This global certification program will open new markets worldwide and just as important, it will provide the means to trace our certified lobsters, no matter where in the world they end up, back to waters of Maine," LePage said in his statement.
Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: