Protecting Maine’s Most Lucrative Fishery

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Last week, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order that told the United States Department of Agriculture to use trade war bailout funds to Maine lobstermen.

The timing is ideal, as the season starts up in late June and goes into December.

The fishery — which accounts for nearly 75 percent of commercial landings for the state, according to Maine’s Department of Natural Resources — is the U.S.’s most valuable marine resource (based on price), with Maine the country’s top producer.

However, it has been decimated by the trade war between the U.S. and China. Retaliatory tariffs from China — among the biggest importers of Maine lobster — led to a massive drop in exports in 2019 from $180 million to $94 million.

Last year, Maine lawmakers urged U.S. trade reps to work with China to remove tariffs on lobster.

“We cannot allow the future viability of this critical industry to be threatened by prolonged and unpredictable trade negotiations with China,” the letter stated, “We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to working with you towards an expeditious resolution.”

When those negotiations failed, Gov. Janet Mills again wrote the president in March, asking for help.

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The executive order tasks U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to keep a close eye on China’s purchases of seafood, with a specific emphasis on Maine lobster.

“In the event that the Trade Representative determines that China is not meeting its purchase commitments under the Phase One Agreement with respect to seafood, the Trade Representative shall consider, to the extent permitted by law, taking all appropriate action to impose reciprocal retaliatory tariffs on seafood exports from China,” the order reads.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills expressed optimism that the fishery will be able to now fish hard all season — many were planning on setting less traps this season due to the tariffs.

"After years of hammering Maine’s fishermen with shortsighted trade wars, I am pleased the President is beginning to recognize the harm his Administration’s policies have caused and now wants to take steps to rectify them. This is a welcome step forward," Mills said.

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