PORTLAND, Maine — The Swedish government has renewed a call for European officials to ban imports of live North American lobsters, a ban that would amount to at least a $10 million hit to Maine’s lobster industry.
Swedish officials on Friday asked the European Union to list North American lobsters — referred to as the “Maine lobster” — as an invasive species, according to The Guardian.
Officials in that country said they’re concerned about the North American lobster transmitting shell diseases to the native population, citing reports of more than 30 lobsters off the Swedish coast in recent years. The country had previously raised concern about live North American lobster imports in 2012.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, called the request a “complete overreaction” and said that “regulators need to look at the problem more carefully and not just jump to conclusions.”
For Maine specifically, Europe makes up a relatively small share of live lobster exports.
Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association, told Foreign Policy magazine the group is making the issue a “top priority” and urged better enforcement of local laws preventing the release of wild lobsters before a ban on their importation.
In 2015, about 3.5 percent of the live lobster shipped abroad directly from Maine went to European countries, according to federal statistics. Less than 1 percent headed to Sweden.
[tableau server=”public.tableau.com” workbook=”LobsterexportstoEurope” view=”Swedenimports?:showVizHome=no” tabs=”no” toolbar=”yes” revert=”” refresh=”” linktarget=”” width=”100%” height=”535px”][/tableau]
In recent years, Europe’s share of live lobster imports from Maine has dwindled as Asia becomes a bigger destination for the crustacean.
But the extent of trade between Canadian and Maine lobster markets also masks exports to the final consumers of lobsters. Canada made up about 90 percent of the export market for live lobster last year, to the tune of about $290 million. About $180 million was imported to Maine from Canada during the same period.
[tableau server=”public.tableau.com” workbook=”LobsterexportstoEurope” view=”Lobsterexports?:showVizHome=no” tabs=”no” toolbar=”yes” revert=”” refresh=”” linktarget=”” width=”100%” height=”485px”][/tableau]
The Guardian reported EU officials will consider Sweden’s request next month and the request would ultimately need approval from the World Trade Organization.