TENANTS HARBOR, Maine — A 23-year-old entrepreneur plans to open a lobster processing plant along the Maine coast, with hopes of getting some of the business that now goes to Canada.
Kyle Murdock, who grew up on Monhegan Island, plans to have the Sea Hag Seafood plant running by Monday in the former Great Eastern Mussel Farms in Tenants Harbor. At a time when most Maine lobster is processed in Canada, Murdoch sees an opportunity to keep more of that business in Maine.
Murdock, who is part of a lobstering family, borrows the name Sea Hag from his father’s boat and a restaurant his parents once owned. He told the Portland Press Herald that at first, the plant will process up to 20,000 pounds of lobster a day, half of its capacity. At 40,000 pounds a day, the plant would process 4.8 million pounds of lobster per year, putting it on par with the state’s third-largest existing lobster processor, Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster in Rockland.
Maine’s five processing businesses compares with more than 30 in Canada.
Murdock’s business opens amid plummeting lobster prices that have dipped below $2 per pound, triggering a temporary blockade of Maine lobster deliveries to Canadian plants and creating tensions with Canadian processors over the prices they pay for the crustaceans. Last week, a deal was reached assuring Canadian lobstermen they will get at least $3.50 per pound from processors.
Some state officials see Murdock’s business as part of the key to ending woes in the lobster industry while improving the state’s economy.
” The protests in Canada highlight a serious flaw in our state’s economy,” said Rep. Walter Kumiega, D-Deer Isle, which is in the center of the lobster industry in Maine. “The opportunity for economic development is staring us in the face.”
State Sen. Chris Johnson, a Democrat who also represents a major lobster fishing area in Lincoln County, wants legislation to strengthen the Maine brand for lobster and increase processing in the state.
“Maine lobster is synonymous with good eating. We need to reclaim that brand and not ship it off to Canada to resell,” said Johnson. “Maine has the best lobstermen, and we need to show them we’ve got their backs.”