ELLSWORTH, Maine — About 20 people gathered Tuesday afternoon at City Hall to hear half a dozen lobstermen from other countries talk about their jobs back home.
The purpose of the event, an exchange organized by Maine Lobstermen’s Association, is to give Maine lobstermen the chance to hear about other regulations and ideas from around the globe.
The group of visitors includes lobstermen from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
What stood out between overseas lobster fisheries and those in Maine and Canada largely was the price and the volume. The price fishermen get for their catch in Ireland and Asia tend to be higher than what fishermen get in North America. For example, the price in New Zealand is nearly $30 per pound, while it’s between $4 and $5 in Maine right now. The overseas fisheries are much smaller, however. Maine has more than 5,000 licensed commercial lobstermen who caught a total of more than 75 million pounds of lobster in 2009. Areas in Ireland and Asia similar in size to Maine have a few hundred lobstermen who caught a total of only a few million pounds last year.
Larnce Wichman of New Zealand and Neville Perryman of Tasmania said that where they fish, lobstermen make do with less by concentrating on quality. They try to catch only high-quality hard shell lobsters that can be shipped to China. In Maine, the emphasis is on catching lots of soft-shell lobsters, which do not ship well and which fetch a lower price.
“The money you guys get is not enough,” Perryman said. “Less is more, sometimes. It’s about using what you’re catching better.”
Wichman said that in New Zealand, fishermen sell directly to processors that also do the marketing. In Maine, he said, lobster seems to pass through more sets of hands before it ends up being marketed to retailers.
“The closer you can get to your end-user, the more you can make on your return,” Wichman said.
The foreign fishermen arrived in Maine last week to attend the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in Rockport and are attending several community meetings along the coast. They are expected to attend events in Thomaston and Phippsburg on Thursday.
More information about the exchange and planned appearances by the international group can be found online at www.mainelobstermen.org.