This week, John Hathaway (no relation), owner of Shucks Maine Lobster in Richmond, inched a few steps closer to finalizing the construction of a new lobster processing facility on the Portland waterfront.
There's been a little squawking about some possible compromises to the 950-foot Whaling Wall mural painted by artist Robert Wyland on one side of the now-vacant building on the Maine State Pier.
However, Hathaway has pledged to work with the city to preserve as much of the mural as possible while adding a loading dock and a door for employees to the building that will potentially house the 18,000 square-foot plant.
I am delighted that Hathaway plans to open the plant (ideally by summertime), which will offer as many as 70 new working-waterfront jobs in a town with a rich maritime heritage and a struggling working waterfront. As Hathaway has said, the alternative is to keep sending millions of pounds of our Maine lobster to Canada for processing and reimport it for the wholesale market as product of Canada.
Hathaway has also long been a strong proponent of the Marine Stewardship Council's approval of Maine lobster as a sustainable fishery. Now that Maine lobster carries the label, it only makes sense to take full advantage of the price tag the ecolabel carries by keeping the product in local hands from boat to throat.
Perhaps more importantly, a recent University of Maine study indicates that Maine's record lobster landings may start to slide. The numbers gathered from 11 Maine locations indicate the number of baby lobsters has declined by more than half since 2007.
If that is the case, then we ought to maximize the catch by keeping it off the long haul across the border and in the hands of local entrepreneurs like Hathaway.
Photo: Caitlin Hathaway, Shucks of Maine sales and operations manager, displays some of the company's innovative retail products; Jessica Hathaway