BOSTON, Mass. — The Marine Stewardship Council has certified the Maine lobster fishery as sustainable, Gov. LePage announced at the Boston Seafood Show on Sunday.
“This not only helps other Maine fisheries, it helps the state. We are the lobster for the world,” said LePage, who gave credit to Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher.
“This is a tremendous achievement,” said Rupert Howes, Marine Stewardship Council chief executive, who awarded the certificate to LePage at the booth of Shucks Maine Lobster of Richmond, one of thousands in the huge cavern of the Boston Convention and Exposition Center.
Shucks president John Hathaway thanked the Maine lobstermen who supported the effort, some of whom were present. The official status should be reassuring to the many lobstermen and others who have believed and stated for years that their fishery was sustainable.
Lobsterman Bob Baines thanked Hathaway and Linda Bean of Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine for their foresight in pursuing the certification process. The certification effort was aided by hundreds of thousands of dollars raised by Linda Bean.
“The whole industry will benefit from this,” said Baines.
The benefits to an industry still recovering from last year’s early and overly abundant supply of lobster remain unclear. LePage said that MSC certification may stimulate investment in processing infrastructure in Maine.
Many believe the label will help Maine lobster in a global marketplace that is demanding accountability and environmental responsibility of food.
Around the world now, more and more often, fish service sector companies and retailers (including giants like Wal-Mart) are building in a requirement for assurance of the sustainability of their seafood choices, and many are saying they prefer the MSC, said Howes.
“This is how we believe we can add value to the lobster fishery. The MSC team globally will be doing all we can to help promote the sustainable Maine lobster,” said Howes.
The certification places Maine lobster among the 15 percent of fisheries around the world that MSC has deemed sustainable.
To achieve MSC certification, said Howes, fisheries are assessed by third-party certification bodies on such standards as the health of the fish stock, marine ecosystem protection and the effectiveness of fishery management. The MSC certification program includes a process for tracing each certified lobster to Maine.
“We know that people want [sustainable seafood], and now we can show them, it is traceable and really is Maine lobster. The story is real,” said Hathaway, who thinks the label will help market Maine lobster overseas.
But don’t expect to see Maine lobster in Wal-Mart tomorrow, said Hathaway. Certification will open access to markets, but will take time. “By next Christmas, there will be a huge increase in the value of Maine lobster being shipped to Europe,” said Hathaway.