Gourmet has posted an online interview with Grant Hubbard, the son of a lobsterman and a tour guide on the Maine coast, discussing the condition of that state’s lobster industry. Considering the circumstances surrounding the world’s fisheries and the innumerable stories about stock collapse, it is a blessed relief to learn that Maine’s lobster supply appears to be well-managed and sustainable. It’s not certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, but the state protections are impressive. Hubbard describes a regulatory system that’s divided the coastline into monitored sections, dramatically cut the number of traps per license, and minimized the number of licenses period:
The zone I’m in has a five-out/one-in ratio, which means that five lobstermen would have to give up their licenses to let one new guy in. They’re sinking the number of lobstermen just to stay ahead of any kind of overfishing that may arise.
Maine lobstermen are tied to their coastline, and they understand that their survival is the lobster’s survival. For years, Maine has had a maximum-size law—the only federal regulation is for minimum size—which protects the biggest and most fertile lobsters. (If caught, they are tossed back in: Lobsters are tougher and can tolerate the roughing-up better than fish.)
Although the Gourmet interview fails to mention it, the remainder of the Atlantic coast, which has seen its lobster numbers plummet in the last decade, is now following Maine’s example: Beginning next summer, the maximum-size law will apply from Maine to North Carolina, or as far south as lobsters go (voluntarily, that is).