ELLSWORTH — While the economic news has been bad for all sectors of the economy as it reels from the virus epidemic, the fishing industry has been particularly hard-hit.
On March 20, Governor Janet Mills wrote to President Donald Trump seeking “immediate assistance” for the Maine fishing industry. Harvesters, she said, “have only limited opportunities within their communities to sell small quantities … in hopes to earn just enough money to buy weekly necessities.” Likewise, she said dealers and processors reported there were “no markets for the product already in inventory.”
In her letter, Mills asked Trump for extensive help for the Maine fishing industry including: direct financial assistance to struggling harvesters, dealers and processors; direct subsidies to the seafood industry; operating loans or “loan deferments” for industry members; and “modification to existing programs to make them more accessible to fishing and seafood businesses.”
The problem is especially acute in the lobster industry, according to Rock Alley, president of the Maine Lobstering Union Local 207. Lobstermen are “not able to move much product,” Alley said Monday. “There’s no market, no price.”
Mills said in her letter that the boat price for lobsters was as low as $2 per pound, when harvesters could find a dealer to take their catch. Alley said union members saw a boat price of about $2.50 but that some harvesters were selling their catch “by the side of the road” in hopes they could get another dollar per pound for their lobsters.
Alley said the union-owned cooperative marketing operation, Lobster 207, was also experiencing severely reduced demand.
“The only market for us is online sales,” he said. “There’s no demand because the restaurants are closed.”