KENNEBUNK — It’s summertime, and what says “Let’s celebrate!” more clearly than Maine lobster on the table? The Fourth of July is this Friday, and you can be sure that many family gatherings will feature Maine lobster.

And why not? Maine lobster is one of the world’s most sustainably harvested foods – wild-caught, delicious, nutritious and harvested by independent small-businesspeople, namely lobstermen!

As a world leader in sustainable fishing practices, Maine continues to reap the bounty of its many decades of careful stewardship measures. The number of pounds of lobster landed each year in the state continues to be high, and consumer demand for Maine lobster has never been greater.

Just think of it: Maine lobstermen landed more than a quarter of a billion pounds of live lobster over the last two years! Each lobster was brought in by an individual lobsterman, unloaded at a local wharf and carefully transported to its final destination, whether that was Europe, China or the seafood restaurant down the street.

The quality of Maine lobster and the fact that it is recognized as a sustainably harvested seafood by the Marine Stewardship Council have stimulated demand in recent years. Maine’s lobster dealers and processors reported tremendous interest in Maine lobster at this year’s Seafood Expo North America, the largest seafood trade show in North America, from both national and international customers.

Maine’s fisherman-owned lobster cooperatives also have seen consumer interest in lobsters continue to grow. This year, the Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Coop is launching its own brand.

The 2014 Maine lobster season is on track to be a good one. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute predicted that the lobsters’ annual molting of their shells, called the “shedder season,” should begin just about now. This is great timing, since it coincides with the arrival of flocks of hungry tourists to Maine.

Lobster and lobster fishing are two of the main reasons so many visitors travel to the Maine coast each year. Surveys have shown that the sweet flavor of Maine’s new-shell lobsters is favored by diners and chefs alike.

Lobstering is not the easiest job in the world. It is hard, physical labor, and one of the nation’s most dangerous professions.

Every Maine lobsterman is an independent businessman, beholden to no one but himself. Each is responsible for running his operation at sea and managing his business at home.

Maine lobstermen take great pride in their work. Each lobster is carefully removed from an individual lobster trap – one at a time – and treated with great care aboard vessels. After all, lobsters must be kept alive until they are cooked.

There’s a lot of labor involved in getting a lobster to a customer, which is part of the reason that Maine lobster is such a valuable and highly sought-after product.

Maine lobstermen are putting their money where it matters. The industry – lobstermen, dealers and processors – have invested their own hard-earned dollars in educating consumers about their world-class lobsters. The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, funded by Maine’s lobster industry, was launched this year to get the good news about Maine lobster out to the world.

The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative’s first major initiative is a partnership with the Culinary Institute of America, the world’s premiere culinary school. This is a great strategic move, considering that 80 percent of all seafood is consumed at restaurants and other food service outlets.

As part of National Lobster Day last month, film crews went lobstering with Frank Gotwals, a Stonington lobsterman and chair of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, to gather footage for a new online program designed to educate the world’s tops chefs about cooking with Maine lobster.

Our state has a multitude of wonderful natural elements: abundant forests, wild rivers, beautiful mountains and rich farmland. But none is as paramount in the public mind as the Maine coast – a pristine region of small towns, intrepid lobstermen and incredibly tasty lobster.

All signs indicate that this year will be another robust one for Maine lobstermen and consumers alike. Wondering what to have for dinner tonight? Why not have Maine lobster?

— Special to the Press Herald