State legislation would remove processing limits, expand in-state businesses

The first bill introduced in the Massachusetts Senate in 2019 aims to modernize the state’s lobster processing rules and expand in-state processing.

Massachusetts currently allows only for the production and sale of live and cooked lobsters and canned lobster meat, while raw and frozen lobsters are shipped to either Maine or Canada for processing before returning to the state.

“Our state has the second-largest lobster catch in the country. Yet without this bill, raw and frozen lobster parts are processed in Canada or Maine only to be brought back to our local consumers,” said the bill’s sponsor, State Senate Majority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “This bill modernizes those lobster laws to bolster the fishing industry and give consumers, including local restaurants and food stores, more choices, all while sustainably supporting coastal fishing communities.”

In 2017, Massachusetts lobstermen landed 16.57 million pounds of lobster for a total value of $81.54 million.

The state Division of Marine Fisheries has published a report supporting the legislation and analyzing the economic benefits of a change.

The changes, according to the division, “will result in economic benefits throughout the state’s seafood supply chain” and afford the state’s seafood consumers “greater access to desirable seafood products available for purchase at local retailers and restaurants, as well as through online distribution.”

The agency reports that the legislation will have no negative effects on the state’s lobstermen and that the reduced overhead of out-of-state processing will be an economic relief to the industry.

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Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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