TREMONT — State officials with the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) visited Thurston’s Lobster Pound last Wednesday to catch up with owner Michael Radcliffe.
DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher often seeks out lobster industry representatives to get their take on policy matters. Radcliffe sees many sides of the lobster industry as his business includes a private dock, lobster buying station, as well as a popular seasonal waterfront restaurant.
Thurston’s had good news to share. The business bought a lot next door to the restaurant, which gave them room to expand. “We were able to add some value to the restaurant at the dock,” Radcliffe said, with a new, timber-frame bar area. “It also meant we could add lot of parking.”
Thurston’s is the primary lobster buyer for about 20 Bass Harbor fishermen, Radcliffe said. “It used to be 40 something,” he said. He has faced increased competition in recent years from larger buyers who send trucks to the town dock, and with lower overhead, can offer a higher price per pound.
Close relationships between fishermen and buyers used to extend for generations, he said. He worries those connections aren’t there for the younger fishermen and larger buyers. “There’s a collaborative part of the thing that I enjoyed,” he said. “It was a sense of ‘I don’t fish for you, I fish with you.’ We want to keep the iconic character of the area the same.”
Policies governing use of the town dock are outside the scope of the state DMR, Radcliffe said. “There’s nothing they can do about it, but they understood the issue.”
Keliher shared news during the visit about the new Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) and work on a statewide Fishery Management Plan for lobster.
“We’re only one year into this marketing thing, and the price is up, so it must be working!” he joked. “We’re taking full credit.”
The MLMC recently hired Matt Jacobs as executive director. “He has jumped in with both feet,” Keliher said. “He is doing a lot of outreach, talking to dealers and harvesters, getting an understanding of the lay of the land. The great thing about Matt is he’s had this role marketing Maine before.” Jacobs served as president and CEO of the nonprofit consultancy Maine & Company.
Paul Paradis of Bar Harbor serves on the board of the MLMC.
The pressure is off a little on the DMR drive to put together a fishery management plan for lobster quickly, Keliher said. Preliminary numbers show an increase in the population of young lobsters this year.
“That takes off some pressure, but it doesn’t slow me down at all to want to take the time and develop something really good and thoughtful and with industry involved,” he said. “My hope is to have this done in about a year.” The existing Lobster Advisory Council will oversee the process along with DMR staff.