Processing Maine Lobsters Important To Industry
Maine lobsters are some of the best eating to be found anywhere in this nation. I had no idea how true that statement was until I met James who hails from Corinth, Maine. When his parents took us on a trip to the coast during my first vacation to the Pine Tree State I discovered the joys contained in a lobster trap, and the way to open and savor all the parts of what would soon become my favorite crustacean. Back at Marion’s kitchen I was soon to know the magic that comes from a large lobster pot.
Maine now has one of those wonderful opportunities to make sure their lobsters (and never be fooled by ones from the warm waters down south!) can be better presented and sold around the nation thanks to processors. What Maine does not want is for Canadian processors to undertake the mission, and foul up the name brand of where the lobsters come from.
When Maine’s lobster catch averaged about 20 million pounds a year from the 1950s through the 1980s, there was no need to have processors in Maine. Much of the catch was sold live, with the rest shipped to Canada, which has more than two dozen processors. Maine didn’t have any processors to speak of before the 1990s, and has had only three or four of any size in recent years.
But the catch has risen fast over the past 20 years — from 30 million pounds to last year’s record 126 million pounds — and only a small portion is sold live. The rest, some 80 percent or more, is processed and sold to restaurants, retailers, theme parks, cruise ship lines and other buyers around the world.
The call to increase Maine’s processing capacity grew louder and drew national attention last summer after a huge early haul of lobsters caused a market glut and a crash in wholesale prices. Fearing for their livelihood, Canadian fishermen angrily blocked truckloads of Maine lobsters from being delivered to processing plants in Canada.
Less than 10 percent of Maine’s lobster catch is now processed in Maine, with an estimated 60 to 70 percent shipped to Canada for processing.