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Trap for capturing lobster. (Photo: Stock File)

Higher trap price adds further trouble to Maine’s lobstermen sector

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Wednesday, July 25, 2018, 02:30 (GMT + 9)

Maine’s lobster industry is now facing a new hurdle: rising lobster trap prices due to the increased cost of steel and labour for makers of this fishing gear.

The biggest US supplier of the mesh used for making Maine lobster traps, Riverdale Mills Corp. of Massachusetts, has seen the price of its raw steel double in 2018, said CEO James Knott Jr.

“We are who we are because of the lobster industry, so we’re doing everything we can to make sure this won’t hurt the industry,” pointed out Knott in statements to Press Herald. “We can take the hit for a while, but we need the tariffs lifted as soon as possible. It’s very damaging to us. These tariffs mean we can’t invest in our business, our employees, our equipment or technology. There is real trickle-down.”

The entrepreneur hopes the Trump administration eliminates the tariffs before he must decide between trimming jobs at Riverdale, which employs 185 people, or raising the price of its lobster trap wire, called Aquamesh. Raising the price would undoubtedly force trap makers to pass that cost along to lobster fishermen, including many of Maine’s 4,800 commercial lobstermen.

Riverdale pays the 25 per cent tariff to import raw steel from Canada, or buys from US mills that have raised their steel prices to match.

Another challenge faced by Maine’s lobstermen is China’s lobster tariffs, which could drive down lobster prices and stop lobstermen from buying new traps.

Furthermore, lobstermen are also facing the prospect of higher bait prices next year as regulators consider restrictions on the herring catch.

What’s more, they also are losing ground on sales to Europe because of a new Canadian trade pact with the European Union that makes Canadian lobster cheaper.

As reported by Press Herald, Maine Lobstermen’s Association new president Kristan Porter pointed out that most lobstermen had already placed their trap orders and secured their prices by the time the steel tariff hit.

“Trap prices going up. That just adds to our pile of problems,” Porter said.

“Between the bait shortage, and fuel prices, and talk of what we should do to protect right whales, a tariff on lobster traps would just be one more expense that will eventually end up on the fisherman,” Porter concluded.

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