The 2018 Chinese-imposed tariffs on U.S. seafood dealt a critical blow to the lobster industry. The September 1, 2019 tariff raise, almost 30 percent, will likely weak havoc on an already floundering industry. This year’s early season hauls have been smaller and less frequent than usual, and the long-term trend of lobsters moving north into Canadian waters does not bear for the American industry. So, is there any good news for U.S. lobster fishermen? Actually, yes.
Food Export USA-Northeast said it will use more than $20 million in federal funding to help seafood suppliers, especially lobstermen, tap into new markets. This is extremely important in light of quickly waning Chinese export opportunities. Since the initial tariff imposition, Maine lobstermen have been seeking out new selling territory in South America, other parts of Asia, and Europe. This funding can significantly help that effort.
The Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization unveiled their plan during the U.S.D.A.’s Agricultural Trade Promotion Program early in September. The initial press release said the group will use a “significant portion” of the funding over the next few years to open new export markets for some regional suppliers. The money will also help educate importers and connect the U.S. industry to a bigger range of international buyers.
The initiative will also focus on growing international markets for additional seafood products, such as crabs and oysters, which are in ample supply and would benefit from market diversification.
Why is this important? To start, the U.S. lobster industry is continuing to lose the huge Chinese market, meaning there is less demand for seafood. Helping local fishermen find new places to sell their product is a great way to circumvent the issue. Furthermore, finding a bigger market for readily available crabs and oysters, which are also found in Maine/New England waters, may help diversify fishermen’s income streams so they are not as reliant on the lobster industry.