PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Maine lobster will continue to be on tables in Europe, and lobster dealers and wholesalers in Maine say they are relieved. European Union officials decided last week to reject a request from Sweden to ban imports of North American lobster.
Sweden made the request during the summer, after saying it had found 32 North American lobsters in a spot on the Swedish coast. There was no explanation for how the lobsters happened to be there. However, the Swedes said they considered the American lobster an 'invasive species," and wanted further imports banned. That would have had a significant impact on Maine's lobster industry.
Annie Tselikis of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association told NEWS CENTER that Europe imports about $130 million worth of lobster each year, plus another $70 million from Canada. Much of that American lobster comes from Maine. France has been a favorite Christmas market for Maine lobster for a number of years.
Tselikis said the Maine congressional delegation put pressure on the federal government to get involved in the dispute, and she said federal fisheries agencies provided scientific evidence to refute the claims from Sweden.
She said EU businesses that import lobster also pressured their own governments and the EU. That combined pressure apparently worked, and an EU scientific panel rejected Sweden's request for a ban on imports.
While some dealers and even the Maine Lobstermen's Association said the EU dispute had not become a major concern for individual fishermen, the leader of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative said the requested ban had been "a very real threat" to the Maine fishery.
Tselikis said, with the EU ruling, businesses in Europe are already talking about expanding holding tanks and other changes so they can increase sales.