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Red's Eats calls on Maine businesses to donate to lobstermen

Amid lawsuits, a recent 'red listing' by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and high bait and fuel prices, lobstermen are looking for ways to adapt.

WISCASSET, Maine — Jed Miller can be found  selling lobsters out of his old red pickup truck on Main Street in Thomaston most weekdays.

He told NEWS CENTER Maine business is booming later in the summer, and he normally has people calling ahead to buy lobsters from his truck.

"I cut out the middle man," he said. "I am able to give the consumer a better price, and I'm able to get more at the docks because I go directly from my boat and sell them."

Miller, who has fished since the '90s, catches and sells his own lobster without having to abide by set prices a dealer offers him.

He catches a manageable volume of lobsters to sell out of his truck, but he knows some lobstermen catch thousands of pounds and need to rely on a dealer to take the seafood off their hands.

"These lobsters are ours until we sell them. We need to maximize our income," Miller said. "We need that support right now."

Miller said more lobstermen should sell themselves if they can, as fishermen have been getting low prices for their haul all year.

RELATED: Retailers pull lobster from menus after 'red list' warning

Low prices at the docks are among the many setbacks the industry has faced this summer.

Three lawsuits, high fuel and bait prices, and with a recent "red-listing" by the Monterey Bay Aquarium have put uncertainty in the industry.

"They're scrutinizing our actions. They have an aquarium; we can scrutinize that. That's a fish prison," Miller said. "This has been a devastating summer for a lot of people."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson with Oceana told NEWS CENTER Maine the red listing by the Monterey Bay Aquarium may incentivize more fishermen to call for greater regulation.

"We've seen in other fisheries that have been moved to the avoid list is that fishermen in the industry have become advocates for stronger regulation," he said. "I think this is going to be one of those cases where we see members of the industry asking for stronger regulation."

But at one of Maine's most popular lobster shacks, the lines are stretching far down the highway well-deep into tourist season.

"The Maine lobster industry has done everything it has been asked to do and more," Debbie Gagnon, co-owner of Red's Eats, said. "We're able to do what we do because they do what they do."

RELATED: Maine leaders react to 'absurd' Seafood Watch red list on lobster

Gagnon is working with the Maine Lobstermen's Association to host a fundraiser, asking other Maine businesses to donate to the MLA fund.

"When visitors come to Maine for lobster, they're going to be at your campgrounds and your parks and your beaches, so it effects everybody. Red's is challenging everyone to donate," Gagnon said.

Gagnon, who's family is in the lobster industry, said her nephew pulled his traps from the ocean because of the rising uncertainty.

Organizers for the fundraiser said they are at more than $10,000 in donations this far into the monthlong fundraiser.

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