WASHINGTON, D.C.—In response to the continued harm being caused to the U.S. lobster industry by escalating tariffs and international trade barriers, U.S. Senator Susan Collins wrote to the new Senior Advisor for Seafood Strategy at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to underscore the crucial importance of developing new and expanding existing markets for lobster and other American seafood.
NOAA recently announced the appointment of Dr. Michael Rubino to this newly created position, where he will work on building partnerships across the entire value chain for both wild capture and farmed seafood both domestically and internationally.
Highlights from Senator Collins’ letter include:
Maine’s seafood industry has long been a strong economic engine for the state and the lifeblood of countless coastal communities, supporting the livelihoods of thousands who catch, harvest, process, transport and cook our wide range of ocean delicacies. The Lobster industry is especially significant with an in-state economic impact of approximately $1.5 billion each year.
According to the Maine International Trade Center, Maine lobster exports to China were up 169 percent for the first six months of 2018 over the previous year. This promising trend gave U.S. lobster dealers every indication that China would continue to be a robust market opportunity. Since the new 25 percent tariff was imposed last June, however, U.S. lobster exports to China have plummeted to negligible levels. One lobster dealer in Maine has seen a 90 percent decrease in his exports to China and has watched his Chinese customers forge new business partnerships with Canadian competitors.
I am eager to work with you to develop new and expand existing markets for lobster and other American seafood to help replace those lost in both China and the E.U.
As Maine’s lobster industry is weathering the storm of international trade uncertainty, aquaculture operations throughout the state are increasing substantially – both in the water and on land. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recently released Agriculture Census includes encouraging data on the rise of aquaculture, finding that from 2012 to 2017, farmed oyster sales in Maine nearly doubled in value to over $10 million dollars annually. From oysters and mussels to kelp and salmon, Maine is diversifying and expanding its aquaculture crops at an impressive rate.
This industry is increasingly well-poised to fulfil the growing high-quality protein needs not only of Americans, but populations all across the globe as well. This potential cannot be realized, however, unless the U.S. commits to aggressively pursuing international markets for these products.
Read full letter HERE.