PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- The lobster industry could be trapped in tariffs. The Maine International Trade Center is surveying lobstermen in the state, who've told them they are being pinched by tariffs on lobster exported to China, and by steel and aluminum taxes on lobster traps.
Riverdale Mills Corporation in Massachusetts has made aquamesh steel wire since 1980 and sends it to trap makers in Maine. C.E.O. James Knott estimates the company provides 80% of wire mesh used for lots of traps in North America.
"We're trying to work very, very hard to protect the industry by not raising the prices," said Knott. "We are hoping that these tariffs will be cleared at some point in time in the near future."
The fear from trade experts is that the retaliatory tariffs on steel and aluminum, could trickle down to Maine's lobstermen.
"The effects of the tariffs have been narrow, but have been deep," said Wade Merritt, the C.E.O. of the Maine International Trade Center. "It's a bit of a canary in the coal mine for the rest the state's economy, right? We are starting to see the impacts in different ways, whether it's manufacturers using steel and aluminum, but also the fact that the lobster industry really underpins a lot of Maine's rural and also some urban communities."
Knott believes the government should step-in and provide relief, similar to the $12 billion in federal aid to farmers. "They should do that for the lobster industry, because you're damaging the lobster people just as you've done to the farmers in the Midwest."
Knott says they are holding out on raising prices, but ultimately, it will cause inflation and could hurt consumers.
"You should always judge a policy not on its intent, but on it result. And it's results has been really damaging for the North American lobsterman and for a lot of manufacturers, like ourselves."
Part of why Maine trade experts are collecting data to try to find a way to move forward. "Anything that affects the lobster fisherman affects everyone else around them," said Merritt.