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July 24, 2013
Article

Legislature OKs funding for lobster promotion

New marketing collaborative aims to grow demand

by Tom Groening

Among the bills passed in the 126th Legislature was a measure expanding lobstering for Swan's Island fishermen.
Among the bills passed in the 126th Legislature was a measure expanding lobstering for Swan's Island fishermen. TOM GROENING

AUGUSTA — New name, new group, more money.

That's the headline coming from the Legislature's Marine Resources Committee in the session that ended this early summer. LD 486, which creates and funds a new Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, replacing the Maine Lobster Promotion Council won final passage and was signed by Gov. Paul LePage.

The idea behind the bill is to create more national and international demand for the state's signature seafood product, said Deirdre Gilbert, director of state marine policy for the Department of Marine Resources.

LD 486 will generate about $750,000 for the marketing effort into next year, then $1.5 million the following year, and $2.25 million in years 3-5.

"The committee worked really intensively" on the bill from early March through mid-June, examining various ways to apportion the fees to pump funds into the marketing effort, Gilbert said.

Harvesters will pay fees based on the size of their operation while a more complex assessment was developed for dealers. The split on the funding burden is 69 percent for harvesters and 31 percent for dealers and processors, she said.

A 50/50 split had been considered, but with so few dealers, some would have paid exorbitant amounts.

Sole-operator harvesters will see their license fees jump from $30 a year to $55 in the first year; the next year the fee increases to $110.25 and the year after that, $165.25.

Processor license fees are set by a tiered system, but for most, they generally rise from $1,333 in the first year to $2,666 and then $4,000 in the third year.

"They didn't want to put the same surcharge on every dealer," Gilbert said.

The make-up of the new marketing group also was the subject of debate. In the end, the legislation creates an 11-member marketing body.

Four members will be harvesters, with each of the seven lobster zone councils able to nominate up to three members and the DMR commissioner choosing four with an eye to geographic diversity.

Three members will be dealers or processors, with the Lobster Advisory Council making the nominations. Two members will be from the public at large representing marketing, promotion, retail, food or science expertise.

The DMR and Department of Economic and Community Development commissioners will be non-voting members of the collaborative.

Another lobster marketing bill, LD 182, that would have taken $1 million from the general fund to immediately jump-start the lobster marketing effort, was held over to the next session.

A proposal to empower the DMR commissioner to investigate price-fixing by lobster dealers, LD 469, earned an ought-not-to-pass vote by the Marine Resources Committee and died, Gilbert said. The state attorney general already has that power, she said.

Bills that would have allowed draggers to land lobster in and out of Maine failed to win legislative support.

LD 1020, allowing Swan's Island lobstermen fishing in the island's lobster conservation zone to increase the number of traps they can fish from 475 to 550, passed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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