It is no secret that Maine has a long-standing tradition in selling lobster. From as far as way as China and Japan people around the world are willing to pay good prices for the Maine crustacean. In fact, lobster production and sales are unmatched and unrivaled by any others state around the country. Not only are lobsters Maine’s most profitable catches but is also one of Maine’s most recognizable resources. More often than not when you ask somebody from away what he or she knows about Maine they say, “Lobster right?” A significant part of our tourism comes from the lobster itself. Main holds the elite title of the best lobster in the world.
Over the last few years the Maine lobster industry has been threatened. Not because of reputation or lack of catch weight but because of the low-priced Canadian cannery industry. In fact in just the last two years Maine has closed all of their lobster and seafood canneries. To the lobsterman and seacoast workers along the state this has been a major blow to their source of revenue and livelihood. Many of those lobstermen and Fishman blame Canada and their canneries for drastically affecting the way Maine does lobster business. As a result under the LePage administration a drastic measure has been taken to inject State tax dollars into a the $100-300 million dollar lobster industry. With special emphasis placed on marketing, sales and promoting sales of lobster around the world. On its face, this measure seems like an amazing effort to curb the ailing lobster industry. However, I would argue that this is money misspent. The vast amount of this money will be tied up in large marketing firms and overseas spending initiatives. And, in fact will do very little to secure the price of lobster per pound. It might even cause the price of lobster to decrease by flooding the seafood market with Maine’s most valuable catch.
The main legislator and the LePage administration were on the right track when aiming to curb the ailing lobster market. However a broader look at why the market is failing should’ve been taken. It is by no means the popularity of lobster the needs help. It is the production and canneries right here in the state of Maine that need Financial support.
You do not have to be a marketing expert to understand that promoting a product helps sales. Large companies like Coca-Cola or Ford Motor Company spend millions on advertising every year. But along with their advertising dollars these companies have large infrastructures that are in sound fiscal shape. In order to truly capitalize on the value of marketing, in terms of increased sales and profits, infrastructure needs to be in place.
This presents a good challenge for Maine. How do we increase sales while securing the price per pound and the longevity of the industry? No matter the amount the Maine government approves for spending on marketing lobster, no more than one quarter percent should go towards actual promotion. There is just no need of spending all that money on marketing when the lobster industry isn’t in a fiscally prepared position to handle the increase in demand. One-quarter percent should go directly to the lobsterman in forms of subsidies. Just like farm bills and other agriculture initiatives, the fishery industry needs lots of dollars to maintain competitive practices. These subsidies would go towards offsetting the high cost of diesel fuel, repairs to boats and machinery. Some of this money could also be set aside for the hiring of additional employees during high demand months of operation. The remaining 50% of money should go towards in-state production and cannery facilities. There is no better way to capitalize on the lobster industry than to keep as much of the lobster in state as we can. With a creative and modern approach Maine has the capability of establishing a new cannery industry. An industry that is built on the foundations of quality and sustainability. Small independently owned canneries could operate all along the coast. With co-ops and independently owned canneries Maine could deliver unique and specialty lobster Products. And with the help of state and federal subsidies, Maine can be competitive with Canada.
There is no need to spend tens of millions of dollars to tell the rest of the world that Maine has the best lobster. The world already knows it. Maine would be best served if the State spent the majority of the money on lobster industry infrastructure and canneries. While also allowing for significant subsidies for lobsterman to help them be competitive. With the proper levels of investment the state of Maine has the potential to be the world’s finest lobster product’s producer. While at the same time providing opportunity for in-state economic growth. It’s never how much money you spend on marketing but it’s the quality of what you’re marketing that really counts.