National Fisherman

With last year's glut of lobsters and plummeting prices still a vivid memory, Maine lobstermen are hatching strategies to cultivate new markets and more customers for the state's leading fishery.

Lobstermen expect another big harvest this year, but it's unclear whether it will begin early again, said Marianne La-Croix, acting director of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council, an industry-funded organization in Portland.

"Obviously," she said, "we don't want to be in the same situation" as last year, when the lobster harvest soared but prices for fishermen took a dive to their lowest point since the mid-1990s.

In 2012, the season for shedders – soft-shell lobsters – started four to five weeks early. That brought Maine and other U.S. fisheries into competition with Canada in late May and June, said Rick Wahle, research associate professor in the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine.

Wahle said processors customarily handle the lobster harvest from Canadian waters, which occurs in the winter, well into May. When Maine's lobster season started more than a month early, there weren't enough buyers.

"The so-called glut brought the price down," Wahle said.

Even though the timing of the harvest didn't jibe completely with the processing demand, LaCroix said, all of the Maine lobster was marketed. "Not at the price everyone's happy with," she acknowledged, but it still was sold.

Within the next month, the Lobster Promotion Council and other lobstermen's organizations will begin mapping out specific plans to expand markets and broaden their customer base.

"With a little more preparation ... building a little bit of demand ... more processors will be on line earlier this year," LaCroix said.

The organization hopes to generate media attention to help consumers better understand pricing and accentuate the long history of the fishery, and the partnership between lobstermen and government.

Read the full story at the Portland Press Herald>>

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