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Maine Gov. Touts Lobster at Annual Rockland Festival
08/01/2013   Reported By: Jay Field

Gov. Paul LePage says he hopes to come up with some additional money next year to give an early boost to Maine's new lobster marketing effort. The governor discussed marketing and other issues facing the industry at an appearence at the 66th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland. Jay Field has more.

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For those of us who live in Maine, it's hard to believe that there are people who don't know about its connection to lobster.

"Just recently, we entertained some folks from South Korea," said Gov. Paul LePage today. LePage says East Asia is a market that he's actively pursuing. "I was over to Hong Kong last fall to get live lobster and processed lobster into those markets."

And Maine's lobster industry needs new markets, because while the catch last year surged to more than 120-million pounds, the total value - just over $330 million - wasn't much more than it was seven years ago. Maine, it turns out, just hasn't found enough places for all those lobsters to go.

"I mean, it's a supply and demand issue - if you look at the boat price in the winter months, when the product is not there, you'll watch that price continue to go up," says Patrick Keliher, who heads the state's Marine Resources Department.

Keliher joined Gov. LePage in Rockland to kickoff the annual Maine Lobster Festival. "The goal here is to have many more millions of pounds of demand for the supply that we're going to bring ashore," Keliher says.

Back in June, Gov. LePage signed a bill that's supposed to help the state reach this goal. In recent years, the Lobster Promotion Council, the industry's chief marketing organization, operated with an annual budget of between $250,000 and $350,000, which the administration believes is not enough to effectively promote lobster beyond Maine's borders.

The measure creating the new Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative will gradually raise license fees on fishermen, dealers and processors. The increased fees will eventually boost the marketing budget for Maine lobster to $2.5 million annually.

But next year - the collaborative's first - the budget will still be a modest $750,000. Considering the task at hand, LePage says he'd like to find some additional funding for the effort.

"We're working on that," LePage says. "Maybe, come January, maybe we can loosen up some money. But you know, I can't appropriate. It comes from the Legislature."

LePage, and the Democrats who control the Maine House and Senate, have clashed repeatedly this year over the state budget and other issues. But if there's one issue the two sides may be able to keep working together on, it's the ongoing effort to get Maine's signature seafood product onto more plates around the world.


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