Too much Maine lobster prompts protests and court order in Canada

Canadian fishermen protesting the import of Maine lobsters were hit with a court injunction Thursday.

Story highlights

  • Canadian fisherman were stopping trucks hauling cheap Maine lobster into plants
  • Fishermen forced mass shipments of lobster back to Maine
  • Snowe called the injunction "welcome news for Maine's hardworking lobstermen"
  • Unseasonably warm winter resulted in abundance of Maine lobster, causing price drop
Unusually high catches of Maine lobster have boiled up into demonstrations this week in Canada, where protesters, largely comprised of Canadian fishermen, were hit with a temporary court injunction Thursday that required them to stay away from processing plants.
The group had been seeking to prevent trucks from hauling Maine lobster into Canadian plants because of an excess of the crustacean, which has contributed to a recent crash in wholesale prices.
"We are hopeful that this will allow companies to resume processing and ensure operations won't be interrupted," said Anne McInerney, a New Brunswick provincial spokesman.
Protesters are required to stay at least 200 feet away from the entrance and may have only six pickets on site at a time, she said.
Fishermen had blocked trucks, sending mass shipments of lobster back to Maine, according to a spokesman for Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe.
Thursday's injunction was "welcome news for Maine's hardworking lobstermen and truckers," Snowe said.
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"While this court action stands over the next ten days, it is my strong hope that both sides can coalesce around a path forward to rectify this situation and ensure Maine soft-shell lobster is shipped in a timely manner to the Canadian processors without intimidation, violence, or coercion," Snowe said in a statement.
But the broader issue of a market glut has left the industry reeling, while also revealing the level of interdependence between Maine and Canadian markets.
The unseasonably warm winter has resulted in much more Maine lobster, causing prices to drop to a 40-year-low, Maine Marine Commissioner Patrick Keliher explained.
Some lobsters are selling for as low as $1.75 per pound off the dock, with lobstermen demanding closer to $4.
"It's a freak situation," said Hugh Reynolds, owner of Green Head Lobster in Stonington, Maine.
"We had an epidemic of lobster in a biblical proportion," Willis Spear, a Maine commercial fisherman, told CNN Money. "We have never seen anything like it. The price has not budged. If it doesn't come up soon, it's going to be a long winter."
New England retailers have since been offering deals in hopes of boosting sales and increasing demand.