March 26, 2013

Some lobstermen refuse to take bait on new surcharge

By North Cairn ncairn@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Lobster surcharge

Should the state put a surcharge on lobster­men to pay for a campaign to market Maine lobster?

Yes

No

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"The Maine lobster industry is experiencing record high catches and record low boat prices," McCarron told legislators. "If we keep doing what we've always done, we'll keep getting what we always got. And that is simply not good enough for Maine's most valuable fishery."

That's a matter of opinion, say opponents of the proposal.

Preliminary reports on the 2012 lobster season indicate that more than 126 million pounds were landed by Maine lobstermen, at a value of nearly $339 million.

Those figures reflect a record catch -- a glut, say some in the industry -- and the largest annual value ever for the state, but the lowest price per pound since 1994.

"They've used the idea of a glut against us," King said.

He said that while the price was low, none of the catch went unsold.

"And believe me, the price didn't go down on a plate in New York," he said. "We (harvesters) have no direct benefit from this. None."

Lobstermen who oppose the surcharge say they object to increasing the promotional budget at a time when they face higher costs for fuel, bait, traps and rope.

"It's way too much," said Andrew Kenny, a lobsterman who has fished for 20 years out of East Boothbay. "This will just be the first step. It's a never-ending cycle. The cost of doing business is strangling us."

Opponents also say that the retail price of lobster is still high, even while wholesale prices fall. They remain unconvinced that a marketing campaign would significantly increase the price per pound, or the total value of the industry and related services, estimated now at nearly $1 billion, according to McCarron.

"It's the accountability factor," Parkhurst said. "We've been paying in for 20 years, and where's it gotten us? I'm just so frustrated. ... Where's the accountability?"

This story was updated at 5:34 p.m. March 26 to correct several errors. Because of inaccurate information provided to the newspaper, the story misstated the source of the Maine Lobster Advisory Council's $350,000 promotion budget; the money comes from surcharges on license fees. Also a proposed increase in surcharges would raise the promotion budget to $3 million over three years; a one-time, $1 million allocation from the state's general fund is proposed in a related bill. Further, a proposed bill is unclear about the entity that would oversee the design and implementation of promotion strategies; that responsibility would fall to a new, as yet unnamed, council. Because of an editing error, the story inaccurately said that officials with the Maine Lobstermen's Association did not return phone calls; a spokeswoman said no one was available to comment Tuesday. 

North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

ncairn@pressherald.com

 

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Today's poll: Lobster surcharge

Should the state put a surcharge on lobster­men to pay for a campaign to market Maine lobster?

Yes

No

View Results