COVID-19 Updates for the Lobster Industry

Go to DMR Notices     Go to Effect on the IndustryGo to Resources and Notices for Direct-to-Consumer salesGo to Small Business Information     Go to public letters in support of Maine’s Lobster Fishery

For the most up-to-date news about Covid-19 in Maine: CLICK HERE


DMR Notices

See wet storage waived noticeSee Licensing noticeSee limited office access notice

Letter From Commissioner Keliher to the Lobster Industry (March 16)

Maine DMR is assessing the many challenges associated with the Coronavirus. Despite rumors to the contrary, I do not have any immediate plans to close any commercial fishery in response to the Coronavirus. In particular, it is important to understand that under the existing circumstances, I DO NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO CLOSE THE LOBSTER FISHERY.

I am monitoring this situation and am receiving thoughts and guidance from all segments of the industry. Many of these recommendations from the industry are in conflict with each other. I am currently evaluating the appropriateness of management actions I am authorized to take within our enabling legislation. I am also working directly with the Governor’s office to fully understand what other authorities may – or may not exist. I will remain in constant communication with industry as this situation unfolds.

In the short-term: 1)Harvesters and dealers must put aside their differences and must actively communicate with each other about the realities of the market. 2) Harvesters must refrain from landing product if there is no market for it. 3) Dealers must refrain from buying product for which there is no market in order to minimize loss associated with inventory that can’t be sold.

I can’t stress enough that all segments of this industry must cooperate in the short-term. You all have the ability to work to help with solutions in the short-term and this Administration will continue to look at other solutions as we move forward.

DMR notice – Enforcement of Wet Storage Regulation Waived (March 18, 2020)

The Department is immediately suspending enforcement of the regulatory prohibition on wet storage of gear. This enforcement suspension will be revisited after 30-days, at which point a determination will be made whether it will continue. We are doing this because of current and potential market uncertainties associated with Coronavirus, and to control the spread of COVID-19 on fishing vessels where social distancing is difficult. Please contact your local Marine Patrol Officer for information.

During this challenging time, we continue to encourage all sectors of the industry to collaborate and to actively communicate with each other about the realities of the market.

DMR Notice on Licensing (3/20/2020)

If industry members need to apply for or renew a license or order tags, and can only do so on paper, there are applications and order forms available in the entryway of the Augusta office at 32 Blossom Lane in Augusta. There is also a drop box at the Augusta office where items can be left for DMR, including license applications and order forms. PLEASE NOTE: NO CASH WILL BE ACCEPTED AT THIS TIME, HOWEVER CREDIT CARDS, MONEY ORDERS, OR CHECKS ARE ACCEPTED FORMS OF PAYMENT.

However, DMR strongly urges industry members to submit applications, order tags, upload documents, report landings, etc. via DMR’s online system, LEEDS at https://maine-dmr-leeds-prod.pegacloud.com/ If using LEEDS is not possible, DMR also encourages everyone to download documents from the department’s licensing web page at https://www.maine.gov/dmr/commercial-fishing/licenses/index.html and to submit them by mail to the address indicated on the document.

Please visit our website for more updated information or to download applications.

Limited licensing staff will still be working to assist with licensing issues over the phone, but in order to limit contact as recommended by CDC, staff will not be available for face to face conversations. DMR’s Licensing Division can be reached by phone at 207-624-6550, Option 2. Documents may be faxed to the Licensing Division at 207-287-4474 or 207-624-6024. Staff will be available to assist with any questions or concerns. We appreciate your patience during this difficult time. Stay safe.

https://www.maine.gov/dmr/news-details.html?id=2247353

DMR Notice – Limited Access to DMR Facilities (March 18, 2020)

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announces that in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, access to all Maine DMR facilities in Augusta, West Boothbay Harbor, Bangor, Lamoine, Jonesboro, and Rockland will be by appointment only. Contact information for DMR staff can be found at https://www.maine.gov/dmr/about/employees.html.

If you are exhibiting any flu-like or viral symptoms, we thank you in advance for NOT entering our facilities for the safety and wellness of others.


The Effect on Maine’s Lobster Industry

As the world closes down during this pandemic, it is not surprise that markets, including the lobster market are suffering extreme changes. Below you can find a link to a story about lobster sale trends from Urner Barry, the key reporter for all food markets (you’ll need to be subscriber). Next shown is an analysis of Maine’s industry over the past five years. Lastly see a commentary from the former Seafood News editor, John Sackton about the impact of shuttered restaurants nationwide. (reprinted with permission.)

Weekly Lobster/COVID-19 check in

Commissioner Keliher is again proving to be a strong leader as the lobster industry grapples with the impacts of COVID-19. On March 18, DMR started holding weekly calls among state officials, delegation staff and industry leaders (from the harvester and supply chain side) to share information to understand the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on the lobster industry. Participants are sharing information on changes in the lobster market and the fishery so we can work together in a transparent manner to understand the rapid changes taking place and identify what we need to keep our businesses solvent.

Trends in live lobster trade

As restrictive measures have been enacted to curb the spread of COVID-19, most notably the closure of dine-in restaurants, where a majority of high-priced seafood is consumed, the demand for live lobster has collapsed. Market sources report there are limited opportunities to move product, resulting in higher than expected inventories. With the downturn in demand and sales, market prices have fallen since mid-January…

Amanda Buckle, Editor, Seafood News

Link to Seafood News/Urner Barry Graph of Plummeting Lobster Demand

How will this affect Maine Lobstermen?

In an effort to understand how this collapse in the global market for lobster is affecting Maine lobstermen now, and what impacts we might expect in the future, the MLA provided an analysis on the lobster industry by month, based on the monthly average over the last five years (data compliments of Maine DMR).

  • March is one of the least important months of the year for lobstermen, ranking second to last on number of lobstermen fishing, number of lobster trips made and proportion of annual value and landings for our state. But for those who are fishing it is an important month, ranking first in average boat price and fifth for the average value of each trip.
  • April to June, are also fairly slow for Maine lobstermen. While the number of active lobstermen increases each month as gear is set, (69% of active fishermen have their gear out by the end of June), these three months rank low for overall landings and value, and are lowest for average earnings by harvester each month and the average value of each trip by month.
  • The situation changes dramatically from July to September. August ranks as the month with the most active lobstermen, the highest number of trips, and the highest landings and value. While August ranks lowest for average boat price, it represents the third-highest earning month for individual harvesters. Overall, the five-month period of July to November accounts for 84% of landings and 80% of value for Maine.
Lobster-Summary-Data-2015-2019_MLA_2020.03.24

What will be the impact of restaurant closures?

Market collapse: The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted markets for Maine lobster. Markets for seafood are shrinking rapidly, and it appears that we have a long road ahead. Like everyone else in the seafood industry, lobstermen have been hard hit by the closures of restaurants, casinos, cruise ships and pretty much any social gathering you can think of. More than 80% of seafood is consumed through restaurants and food service so we are highly dependent upon this sector. While the timeline for the coronavirus and its corresponding economic disaster are unknown, we must prepare for long-term impacts. 

Seafoodnews.com_impacts-of-restuarant-shutdown


Resources & Notices for Direct-to-Consumer Sales

Suggestions for selling your product in these current conditions :Direct-to-Consumer Sales Recommendations from Lobster From Maine

While social distancing is required, direct-to-consumer sales offer both fishermen and dealers an opportunity to move some Maine Lobster. The scope of this sales outlet cannot replace the worldwide markets temporarily lost due to the health crisis, but they can provide an outlet for fishermen who are bringing in lobster as they pull up their traps and dealers who have to move through some inventory. Even in these unprecedented times, it is important to maintain the brand value of Maine Lobster.

***De-valuing it now will set a precedent that will be difficult to surmount as businesses re-open.****

Remember to:

  • Promote Maine Lobster with key value messages of a sweet lobster, sustainably caught by local Maine fishermen
  • Maintain product value — discounting now will set a precedent
  • Avoid messages that undervalue your product like ‘cheap’ and ‘fire sale’. Consumers respond well to positive messages that imply value like ‘direct from the boat’ or ‘right off the wharf’
  • Promote all tools being used to adhere to CDC safety recommendations including online payments, pre-bagged product, physical distancing, etc. See full recommendations by Governor Mills here.
  • It’s best to set up a sales channel before securing product — know that you have customers to avoid being left with excess product

For more information check out their press release to the industry: https://t.e2ma.net/message/7ju6vf/zdovzcb…


Federal Dealer Permits Needed for Sales from Federally Licensed Boats

Don’t Forget Your Dealer Permit for Direct Sales! GARFO’s Permit Office is available to help

If you are shifting to selling your catch directly to consumers, we want to help you get the required federal dealer permit. We continue to staff our phones and respond to emails–our permits office is available to help you with a new dealer permit and/or to renew your vessel permit. In addition, our new online system for permit applications is available on Fish Online.  Once received by mail or online, permits are processed and then mailed to you when finalized. If you applied for your permit(s) online, you will have the option to print your permit after it has been approved. Remember, states may have additional permit and reporting requirements. Please consult with your state agency before selling directly to consumers. Even if your state has waived its requirements for direct sales, federal regulations still apply to federal permit holders. If you are selling directly to consumers, you will need to report your catch on a vessel trip report (paper or electronic) and you will also need to report sales through the federal dealer reporting system. Initial dealer applications are available from your Fish Online dashboard. Our port agents are available to help you with your new dealer reporting requirements.
Questions? Contact the Permit Office at 978-282-8438 or NMFS.GAR.Permits@noaa.gov, or your local Port Agent by phone or email. Media: Contact Allison Ferreira, Regional Office, 978-281-9103

Small Business Financial Resources

The State of Maine has prepared a website of information for Maine business owners affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. For more information on resources available to help your business recover from losses as well as best practices to protect the safety of your customers and the health of your employees click the link for this page and SCROLL DOWN to bottom.

https://www.maine.gov/governor/mills/covid-19


Public Letters

Read Governor Mills March 20th Letter to President Trump

2020_March20_GovMills-to-PresidentTrump_SeafoodIndustryAssistance

Read the Seafood Industry’s March 20th Letter to the Maine Delegation

Maine-Seafood-Industry-Covid19-Economic-Response-_2020.03.20

Read the National Fisheries Institute March 18th Letter to Executive and Legislative Leaders

NFI-Letter-to-Executive-and-Legislative-Leaders-re-COVID-Impact-on-Seafood

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