Maine Lobster Fishery Achieves MSC Certification - Maine Governor Makes Announcement at Boston Seafood Show — MSC
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Maine Governor Paul LePage and MSC Chief Executive Rupert Howes. © MSC

Maine Governor Paul LePage and MSC Chief Executive Rupert Howes. © MSC

Maine Lobster Fishery Achieves MSC Certification - Maine Governor Makes Announcement at Boston Seafood Show

Mar 10, 2013

Maine Governor Paul LePage, surrounded by Maine lobster fishermen, representatives of the fishery client group and leaders from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), gathered at the Shucks Maine Lobster Booth at the International Boston Seafood Show on opening day to announce and celebrate MSC certification of the iconic Maine lobster fishery as a sustainable and well-managed fishery.

Maine lobster, famous across the country and around the world as a delicious lobster caught by fishermen whose families have fished the cold Atlantic waters off the east coast of the United States for generations, has a new title to its name: MSC certified Maine lobster. Lobster buyers everywhere can now easily see that Maine lobster meets the most stringent, independent criteria for sustainability, MSC certification, potentially opening new markets and securing existing ones for Maine lobster everywhere. 

Historic step for an iconic brand

Governor LePage recognized the fishery as one of the best known in the world and said the announcement was historic for an iconic brand, "The Marine Stewardship Council’s certification will provide the Maine lobster industry with a globally-recognized seal of approval," said the Governor. "This certification recognizes our longstanding practices of good stewardship and ensures that every lobster caught in Maine waters can be marketed not only as delicious, healthy food, but also as a resource that meets the most stringent international environmental standard for seafood sustainability."

Known officially as the American lobster, (Homarus americanus, L) the Maine lobster fishery predominantly occurs in Maine’s three mile territorial waters in the area designated as Lobster Conservation Management Area 1 (LCMA 1).  Fishermen use baited lobster traps, called pots, which are lowered to the sea floor and are constructed to allow smaller lobsters to easily exit the trap. The fishery dates back several centuries predating the United States of America and is the backbone of the towns and villages dotting coastal Maine.

A world class sustainable resource

Patrick Keliher, Commissioner for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said, "This is a great day for Maine’s lobster industry and the many communities it supports. We have a world-class, sustainably-harvested resource and we’re tremendously proud that it is receiving MSC certification and excited for the opportunities it provides."

Maine lobsters grow new shells as many as 30 times and can be harvested once they reach a minimum size either with a new shell or hard shell. Those harvested with a new shell are sold primarily into local eateries and for processing while the hard-shell lobsters are shipped live to major retail and restaurant chains in the U.S., Europe and Asia. In 2012, landings of Maine lobster were approximately 57,000 metric tonnes with a value in excess of half a billion dollars. 

No longer a 'sustainable secret'

The Maine lobster fleet is comprised primarily of small vessels between 22 and 42 feet in length that are operated by one or two people. The number of Maine lobster fisherman has remained steady at approximately 6,700 licenses for more than half a century. 

The client for the assessment and certification is the Fund for the Advancement of Sustainable Maine Lobster, and John Hathaway is the Chairman. "Today's seafood buyer ’expects’ their seafood to be sustainable," said Hathaway. "MSC certification required Maine lobster to meet the most stringent sustainable seafood standards in the world. From this moment on, Maine lobster is no longer the ’sustainable secret’ of seafood."

Powerful and positive message

Kerry Coughlin, Americas Regional Director, said: "This is an historic day for the Maine lobster trap fishery and the Marine Stewardship Council. Having one of the most famous and iconic fisheries in the world become MSC certified sends a powerful and positive message about confirming seafood sustainability to buyers and consumers around the world.  The Maine lobster fishery has operated for centuries and today’s announcement indicates the fishery’s commitment to be viable for centuries to come."

The independent, third-party assessment process against the MSC standard was conducted by Intertek Moody Marine which made the final determination that the Maine lobster trap fishery should be MSC certified as a sustainable and well-managed fishery.

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