DuraBrite has teamed up with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) in support of the Save Maine Lobstermen campaign. The MLA began this campaign in November 2021, when the National Marine Fisheries Service stated that the Maine lobster fishery was to reduce the threat of gear entanglement to the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Over the past ten years, DuraBrite has formed relationships with Maine lobstermen that have made them prominent within the marine community.
DuraBrite opened its doors at a time when gas and oil companies were in decline. The timing was quite fortunate for this new company, and one Maine lobsterman decided to let DuraBrite lights guide his way on the water. Word soon spread like wildfire, and soon enough DuraBrite found themselves fulfilling orders from other fishermen, which of most were in Maine.
To find out more about the partnership between DuraBrite and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, we reached out to the DuraBrite team, as well as the director of advancement for the MLA, Kevin Kelley.
The DuraBrite team stated that over the past ten years, without fail, it was the support of the Maine fishermen that solidified their presence in the marine industry. If Maine fishermen are vouching for DuraBrites, then fishermen everywhere are likely to trust their assessment. DuraBrite's president Michael Morris states, “We want to reinvest in the community that invested in us.”
The Maine lobster industry provides more than 22,000 jobs to the state of Maine, including commercial fishermen, their help, and providers for all necessary equipment.
“The industry contributes more than $1 billion directly into Maine’s economy each year, but the ripple effects go even further," says Kelley. "Lobster is the backbone of our rural, coastal communities as fishing families spend their income purchasing boats, traps, gear, vehicles, and supporting local businesses and charities. Lobster also drives Maine’s tourism economy as millions of visitors visit to eat lobster in restaurants and stay in hotels.”
Since the 1850s, Maine lobstermen have ensured self-regulation within their fishery to create sustainability. Lobstering is a way of life for all fishermen that have made the choice to do it as their occupation, and these hardworking men and women hope to pass on these traditions to the next generation. Kelley says, “Their efforts are working, there has not been a known right whale entanglement in Maine lobster gear since 2004, and zero death or serious injury of a right whale has ever been attributed to Maine gear. That is why the MLA is pushing the federal government to develop a new plan that is based on sound science that will protect both the whales and this important industry.”
In November 2021, the MLA launched the Save Maine Lobstermen campaign with a goal to raise $10 million in just three years. This campaign included a four-pronged approach to protect Maine’s lobster heritage. These prongs included- legal and policy, science and data, conservation, and communications. They believe these four approaches will create a solution to protect the endangered right whales without wiping out an industry full of sustainable practices and generations of heritage.
Not only is the Maine lobster industry facing new regulations and a legal fight against the federal government, but also have faced issues such as decisions made by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to red-list Maine lobster last fall. At that time, many Mainers and those beyond banded together to support the Save Maine Lobstermen campaign. Other respected companies, such as Rugged Seas, Grundens, Xtratuf, Friends & Friend Motorsports, Red’s Eats, to name a few, have contributed to the campaign.
“Most recently, the MLA was delighted when DuraBrite approached us with an offer to help raise funds for the campaign. DuraBrite will donate 20 percent of the proceeds (not just profits) from sales of a new, special line of Save Maine Lobstermen lights to our campaign," says Kelley. "We truly believe DuraBrite is lighting the way toward a brighter future for Maine’s lobstering families. Most people don’t realize that each Maine lobsterman is, by law, a small business owner. Each boat is owned and operated by the lobsterman.
"So, when other small businesses, like DuraBrite, step up to offer their support, it’s especially heartening. We all recognize how tough it is to own and operate a small business, and it’s great to see us supporting one another.”
This custom line of DuraBrite products will feature lobster logo on it for the Pro and Mini Series, as well as the Nano series featuring a red body. Most DuraBrite lights are IP68 rated, which means they are military grade; this sets their products aside from competitors trying to sell to the marine industry.
“Our products use a military-grade venting system from Gore that prevents condensation build-up, which can fog a light," according to the DuraBrite team. "The light can basically breathe –as water vapor is drawn out, water droplets are unable to come in. 90 percent of other lights on the market lack this feature. Our lights are also 100 percent waterproof and tested for their respective ratings. To guarantee integrity, each and every light is rigorously tested before we ship.”
As the support from the Maine community and beyond continues to propel the MLA forward, there are still many steps in the legal process. In September 2021, the MLA filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s plan that mandated a 98 percent risk reduction, which the MLA warns would eliminate Maine’s lobster industry as whole, and all supporters of industry agree that this would still fail to save the endangered North Atlantic right whales.
It is arguable that NMFS overestimated the risk that Maine lobstermen have on this endangered species; however, in September 2022 the federal court ruled in favor of NMFS. Following this ruling, Maine’s congressional delegation was successful in securing a six-year regulatory pause, which became law in December 2022.
“While this provides some relief, MLA’s legal battle continues because we will not let one judge’s ruling be the last word,” Kelley says.
Last fall, the MLA hired appellate attorney and former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, and won expedited consideration of the MLA’s appeal. Oral arguments were held on February 24th 2023 and the case is pending.
What can you do to support Maine lobstermen?
"Continue to purchase of Maine lobster, and of course, stay involved to help educate others who don’t understand how the state of Maine's lobstering heritage is at risk," says Kelley. "You can also donate to the Save Maine Lobster campaign, share the hashtag on social media #savemainelobstermen, and finally, by considering becoming a member of the MLA. 2022 has been one of the most challenging years for the Maine lobster industry. Between skyrocketing bait and fuel prices, shortages of marine supplies, and struggles of staffing. Maine lobstermen are in a heart-wrenching predicament.
“No one could blame our lobstermen if they are becoming a little discouraged. Maine lobstermen, however, have never been known to back down from a fight, and today is no different. And, because of the support the MLA has received from harvesters, families, our communities and our neighbors, small and large business owners, and so many others - not only are we successfully fighting back, but we are making significant progress in our efforts to Save Maine Lobstermen.”
The Maine lobster community is in a costly fight, but together they believe they can create hope for the next generation growing up in these small towns and islands who want to further be part of the heritage their parents and grandparents have shared with them.
Visit the Maine Lobstermen’s Association campaign page for more information, as well as the DuraBrite product page to pledge your support for Maine lobstermen.