To the Editor:
Someone educate me: I’ve lived here most of my life. I think I know a thing or two, maybe even three on some days. I do not know much about lobstering, but I am open to learning.
I want the industry to be vibrant and profitable. When it is, everyone in the state benefits as it is a “real” trickle down industry that helps fuel the economy of our state.
How come the Maine lobster industry can’t work together, for their own benefit? Here we are again at another “crisis point” in the industry. I think the non-organized/non-tie up is actually good move, but it falls short of really taking the bit and running. It is reactive instead of proactive. It should help decrease supply and get the price back up, but it is a band-aid to a cut that shouldn’t need to happen.
So, to the point: the term “Live Maine Lobster” is a marketing term used around the world. If this phrase has such a selling power, why is it not trademarked? If it drives sales, and has clout, then the phrase deserves to be trademarked.
I have personally seen non-Maine lobster being sold at restaurants in Florida, with the Special Board out front touting “Live Maine Lobster,” but the boxes out back saying product of Nova Scotia.
Dirt farmers in Georgia trademarked and protect the term Vidalia Onion; so why does the term Live Maine Lobster not get trademarked and protected? Did you ever notice how much more expensive a Vidalia Onion is? The kicker is those onions represent a tiny fraction of the total onion market, but that phrase is well protected and it works.
Why does the Maine Lobstermen’s Association not trademark their livelihood, especially when lobster from other areas are being sold as Maine lobster? If trademarks were in place, real, live, Maine lobster would command a higher price, not only now when the times are tight, but all the time. If no one moves to protect it, others will certainly use it to their advantage, and they do and the Maine lobster folks are the losers.
I have sent this idea into the MLA three times, but for some reason, this one simple idea seems to go nowhere, yet I feel it could have a major impact on the industry. You are already world famous, the marketing is already done; just take ownership of what is already out there commanding premium prices.
The industry, or rather the hundreds of independent business people that make up the Maine lobster industry, have more power, in my eyes, then they are bringing to bear. A major plan and concept like trademarking their product and using bands with that on it, or a Maine shaped punch in the tail, or something, is not that complicated.
Why does the Maine Lobster Industry not build its own freezer plant? They could form a corporation open to Maine license holders only, put some money in and build a plant. When the price drops, sell to yourselves instead of the Canadians. Add value to your own product. Cruise lines would love to have a trademarked source of Maine lobster, so much potential out there, but again, it seems the industry can’t be unified enough to pull it off.
Why? This is where the issue gets dicey, but someone has to say it: because the average Maine Lobsterman is so independent, so head strong, you can’t get him/her to agree with more than a couple of others on anything, let alone the whole state of them agreeing on any one thing.
It gets old, listening to them “whine” about how hard they have it, when there are ways to get more money for the work they are already doing. Until the industry can start to work together and stop the cycle of behavior, that leads to stubbornness and vigilante justice, that in itself is leading to more regulation, more oversight and more headlines in the newspapers that make the industry look bad. Until they come to terms with a world economy and take charge of their own product, they will continue to be at the mercy of the market factors that continue to plague them year after year.