Coastal Outlook: May 2015

First published in Landings, May, 2015. 

Yes, it’s here: the Merry Month of May! After a winter of record-breaking snow and a rough spring, Mainers are finally enjoying the sight of daffodils in the gardens, lilacs blooming, and alewives running up local streams and rivers. Summer is almost here and a new lobster season is just getting underway.

This month in Landings we hear from Matt Jacobson, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, on what we know and don’t know about the public’s perception of Maine lobster. Expanding the consumer’s knowledge of the people who catch lobsters and the complexities of lobster fishing is an important part of the Collaborative’s marketing strategy.

May is finally here, kicking off the start of the summer fishing season. Photo by M. Waterman

May is finally here, kicking off the start of the summer fishing season. Photo by M. Waterman

Landings also examines one of the key factors in Maine’s expanding lobster processing sector: labor. Transforming a live lobster into a variety of food products calls for a lot of hands-on labor. Finding enough people to do that work in a processing plant can be a serious problem for a facility located in a remote area, such as Downeast Maine. For processors in the more populous southern counties, finding workers is much less of an obstacle to growth. Fortunately for Maine, the lobster processing sector is growing rapidly and companies are working strategically to solve their unique labor issues.

Many fishermen and their families signed up for Affordable Care Act health insurance this winter. While it’s a good thing to have health insurance, if you don’t use it, it’s not worth as much. The first step toward getting the most from that health insurance is finding a primary care provider. Landings provides an overview on how to pick a doctor, the differences between in- and out-of-network care, and provides other advice on how to get the most out of your health insurance policy.

Ann Backus, occupational safety instructor at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, continues her informative series on lobstermen’s health. Fishermen spend a lot of time on the water and in the sun. Over time the sun’s UV waves can have a serious effect on eyesight. Backus explains why taking care of your eyes is so important for lobstermen as they get ready to start the season.

Long Island lobsterman Justin Papkee is not worried about his eyesight. The 24-year-old lobsterman received his offshore lobster license in 2014 and is enjoying lobstering year round, despite the harsh winter weather. Papkee is one of twelve young lobstermen who took part in the MLCA’s Leadership Institute last year. Since then he’s been learning more about how the lobster fishery is managed both at the state and federal level and exploring other ways to make his living on the water.

Readers also can read excerpts from comments made by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association on the many proposed regulatory changes that have popped up this winter. From a new management system for Northern shrimp to the enormous expansion in protected habitat proposed for right whales, the MLA presented in-depth analysis and straightforward comments designed to preserve Maine’s lobster fishery to the National Marine Fisheries Service, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and New England Fisheries Management Council, among others. The MLA also provides an update on the status on various lobster bills under consideration by the Legislature this session.
We hope you enjoy this issue and as ever, we look forward to hearing from you.