Lobster import ban is opposed

AUGUSTA An announcement last week that the European Union is closer to banning the import of live North American lobsters does raise the specter of serious consequences for international trade.

Last December, Sweden asked the EU to ban the import of lobsters from the United States and Canada because they were an invasive species that could imperil the population of native European lobsters. On Tuesday morning, the EU scientific forum announced that it has submitted a “positive opinion” on the validity of the Swedish proposal. A final decision by the EU is expected in April of 2017.

Sweden has claimed that 32 live North American lobsters were found off its coast last year and that lobsters had been found in other European waters in the past, which could threaten local species. Lobster scientists from both Maine and Canada discounted those claims.

The North American science apparently didn’t travel well to the Old World.

In its decision released Tuesday morning, the EU scientific forum did not offer any details of the basis for its recommendation or the reasoning behind its decision. The Toronto Globe and Mail quoted an EU spokesperson as saying that the decision was only “a preliminary opinion on a purely scientific risk assessment” and that, as EU’s Invasive Alien Species Committee reviews the issue, “other factors, including international trade” will be considered.

The Maine congressional delegation spoke with a single voice last week in a statement condemning the EU decision.

“We find this decision deeply disappointing, particularly because – as North American scientists have thoroughly demonstrated – there is no strong scientific evidence to justify a ban on the import of live lobsters into the entire 28-country European Union, as Sweden wrongly proposes,” U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin said.

According to figures compiled by the National Fisheries Institute, a fishing industry trade association based in Washington D.C., in 2015, Maine live lobster exports to the European Union were worth some $10.6 million. About $761,000 of that went to Sweden. The total value of Maine’s live lobster exports was about $331 million.

The total value of live lobster exports from the United States to the EU was approximately $150 million.


Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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