PORTLAND, Maine — As Maine and its lobster industry work to revamp the way the state’s signature seafood is promoted, there has been an abrupt shakeup in who will lead that effort.
Dane Somers, executive director of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council, resigned his position Tuesday, according to a press release sent out by the council. Marianne LaCroix, the council’s director of marketing the past six years, takes over as acting director, effective immediately, according to the council’s chairwoman, Emily Lane. Lane is vice president of sales for Calendar Islands Maine Lobster Company.
In a prepared statement, Lane said Somers had served as the council’s executive director for the past five years.
“We appreciate the work Dane Somers has done for the Maine lobster industry and wish him well in his future endeavors,” Lane said in the release.
DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher declined Tuesday to comment on Somers’ resignation and referred questions to Lane.
Contacted Tuesday afternoon by phone, Lane declined to comment beyond what she had said in the press release about Somers’ resignation.
In recent years, officials with Maine Department of Marine Resources and lobster industry officials in the state have repeatedly discussed the need to invest more heavily in promoting Maine lobster around the world. The demand for live Maine lobster has declined with the economy in recent years, and the price lobstermen have earned for their catch sunk this summer to its lowest point in three decades.
The council currently has an annual budget of $400,000 a year, but DMR is looking into ways to assess an undetermined surcharge on lobster fishing, dealer and processor licenses that would raise as much as $3 million each year for marketing, Keliher has said.
In August the Maine Lobster Advisory Council — a group of industry representatives that advises DMR on state lobster regulations and policy — unanimously endorsed the concept.
Deirdre Gilbert, DMR’s director of marine policy, said Tuesday that a specific organizational and funding proposal still is being developed. The goal, she said, is to have a final draft ready to submit to the new Legislature by the time it convenes in January.
Lane said the Maine Lobster Promotion Council board supports the efforts by industry to revamp the marketing organization and to boost its annual funding.
“The lobster industry in Maine is facing many challenges,” Lane said in the statement. “The Maine Lobster Promotion Council is prepared to face these challenges and move forward with new leadership and positive energy.”
Lane said by phone that the council has not decided how to move forward in hiring a new executive director.
“At this point, we are weighing all our options,” she said.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.