We recently celebrated National Lobster Day, a fitting way to start the summer season. Maine’s independent lobstermen are looking forward to landing plenty of our signature seafood once again. Harvester-driven conservation has resulted in record catches recently — over 100 million pounds each year over the last two years — and a truly sustainable fishery. Every year more people are introduced to the sweet taste of Maine lobster and its value as a healthy, nutritious, sustainably harvested seafood.
When hauled from the water, every lobster trap will be picked by hand. The lobsters will be measured, with legal lobsters separated out, banded and placed into a holding tank that circulates seawater to keep them healthy until they’re unloaded at the end of the day. Undersize and oversize lobsters — females with eggs on them and females marked with a “V-notch” by fishermen in prior years, indicating they were bearing eggs — will be returned to the ocean. At the end of the day, the lobsters will be unloaded into crates and immediately returned to the sea from the dock. We want to be sure we do everything possible to ensure Maine lobster gets to your plate in the freshest, and tastiest, possible condition.
The quality of Maine lobster, and the fact that it’s recognized as a sustainably harvested seafood by the Marine Stewardship Council, certainly has stimulated demand in recent years. More and more Maine companies are developing new ways to use lobster in their award-winning foods. Chefs are requesting Maine new shell lobster, known for its sweet flavor, by name. The state’s lobster cooperatives are seeing more demand for their lobster, driven by its high quality and the evocative stories behind the catch.
This past winter marked the beginning of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, a new industry initiative. Harvesters, dealers and processors are collectively funding the MLMC to introduce Maine lobster to new markets, both in the U.S. and overseas. It’s important that we tell our lobsters’ unique story. There is great value in that story to those who buy and use Maine lobster whether live or processed. As chair of the MLMC board, I’ve had a chance to meet many of those people and they want to know more about where their food comes from and who provides it.
After 40 years of chasing lobster in the Gulf of Maine, I’m happy to say I still look forward to heading out at sunrise to haul my traps. Of course, this is the Maine coast, so it may be foggy but that’s OK. It’s a good feeling being your own boss and hauling in something that brings smiles to so many faces. Over the years, I’ve taken people from all over the world out on the boat for a day of lobstering. Surprisingly, when I invite people to have lobster with us in the evening, they all say yes. They all say it’s the best they’ve ever eaten. Funny that they say that even when they come back year after year.
Frank Gotwals is chairman of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative. He has 40 years of experience in Maine’s lobster industry and spent many years on the board of directors of the Stonington Lobster Cooperative. He is from Stonington.