Last week in Rockland, Maine, if
you bought a tire from Eastern Tire & Auto Service or got a massage
at Synergy Massage & Bodywork, your purchase came with a lobster.
Dozens of restaurants up and down the coast were offering lobster
specials, advertising them on sandwich boards outside and posters in the
windows. It was "Lobsterpalooza,” or, as the campaign’s creator has
said, a way to turn "lobsters into Lobsteraid.”
these promotions are part of an effort to mitigate the impact of this
summer’s lobster glut. A record harvest sent prices lower than they’ve
been in at least three decades, and Maine, where the lobster industry is
estimated to be the third-largest employer, is scrambling to figure out
what to do with its unprecedented catch.
solution: rebrand the lobster and convince people to eat more of it.
Gov. Paul LePage kicked off the Maine Lobster Promotion Council’s new
Lobster Lovers Celebration by declaring August "Maine Lobster Month.”
Meanwhile, a new TV spot asks Mainers to "get out and show your love for
Maine lobster and support our local lobster industry.” The ad shows a
lobsterman giving a bouquet of the crustaceans to his girlfriend and
ends with lobsters on the beach in the shape of a heart.
are underway for a similar campaign on the national level. In
mid-August the Maine Lobster Advisory Council, a group of fishermen who
work with the state to protect the industry, unanimously agreed on a $3
million marketing push that they hope will have the same revitalizing
effect that the "Got milk?” ads had on the dairy industry.
the details of that effort have to be hashed out in the state
legislature, and some fishermen are balking at suggestions that they pay
higher license fees to fund it—fees they can scarcely afford with the
price of lobsters falling and the cost of bait and fuel rising. Some
lobstermen are already staying home rather than fish for lobsters that
could sell for as little as $1.35 a pound.
are concerned that the industry is facing a problem no marketing
campaign could help. This year’s glut was largely due to warmer weather
moving up the Atlantic coast, which caused the lobsters to shed their
hard shells months earlier than they normally do. This summer, that
meant the harvest was huge, but what it will mean next year, or the year
after that, is anybody’s guess. "How is the warm water in the winter
going to affect the mating habits, the physiology of the beast?” asks
Robert Bayer of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine.
"Nobody knows. A change like this, it’s worrisome.”