Lobster in Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Disputes between U.S. and Canadian fishermen in the so-called Gray Zone of the waters around Machias Seal Island as well as lobster tariff disputes with China were the subject of questioning by Sen. Susan Collins (R – ME) during a recent Commerce Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.

Lobstermen who work in the Gray Zone are increasingly frustrated that their Canadian counterparts who fish in the same areas are not required to follow the same regulations (such as v-notching egg-bearing females and a maximum size limite), according to a statement, and thus are undermining American protections and threatening the sustainability of the stock.

Because Canada does not impose such conservation measures on its fisheries, a v-notched or oversized lobster tossed back by a Maine lobstermen can be caught by a Canadian lobstermen yards away and brought to market.

Also discussed was the impact of recently imposed trade tariffs by China on U.S. lobster. China, which imported $128.5 million in lobster in 2017, imposed a 25 percent import tariff. During the hearing Senator Collins questioned representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce on the status of trade talks with China, asking “what hope can you provide my lobster exporters who are struggling day in and day out, having lost that very lucrative market to our Canadian neighbors?”

In March, Maine’s Congressional delegation urged U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to make the lobster industry a priority in ongoing negotiations with China.

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