This may be the week when most Americans are gobbling turkey at Thanksgiving, but Maine’s lobstermen and women are looking ahead to 2021 and figure they might get on a roll with Joe Biden.
© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Robert F Bukaty/AP
Donald Trump positioned himself as a friend of New England’s lobster industry, campaigning hard in Maine, and even had lobsterman Jason Joyce speak at the Republican national convention.
But the president’s prolonged trade war with China resulted in a rocky few years for the industry.
Following Biden’s win in the presidential election, which saw him take three out of four electoral votes in Maine, which, along with Nebraska, has a split system, members of the industry now say they are looking forward to some much-needed stability.
Stephanie Nadeau, owner of the Lobster Company, a dealer in Arundel, Maine, said the industry needs assurance that it will be able to sell lobsters to other countries without punitive tariffs and is hopeful that such comfort will come in January following the inauguration of the Democratic president-elect.
© Photograph: Robert F Bukaty/AP
A sternman, right, checks a lobster while fishing off South Portland, Maine, in September.
She said of life under the Trump administration: “You can’t plan. You can’t live in chaos. The trade war, was it going to last a week, was it going to last a month, was it going to last four years? How do you operate around that?”
US lobster exports to China, a major buyer of seafood, tumbled after the Trump escalated trade hostilities. That led to heavy tariffs on US lobsters, and exporters saw a drop of more than 80% in the first half of 2019.
This summer, Trump directed the US Department of Agriculture to provide lobster fishermen with financial assistance and help them claw back lost income from the Chinese tariffs. He also brokered a new deal with China, which agreed to start buying US lobster again.
It was a turbulent time for an industry that’s already used to dealing with uncertainty because of issues such as the fluctuating volume of catch, dangerous weather and the changing prices of bait and fuel.
All with the undercurrent of the climate crisis that’s warming ocean waters and disrupting sea life and, in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic.
Related: ‘We have no market, but lots of lobsters’: a Maine lobsterwoman fights for her livelihood
Biden’s impending presidency represents a chance at steadiness, said John Sackton, a longtime industry analyst and founder of SeafoodNews.com.
“I think Biden, by taking people back to more normalcy and tackling the virus, could potentially put things back to normal, which would be very favourable for the US industry,” he said. “Chaos is the enemy of the lobster industry.”
The Trump administration also boasted of environmental policies that it said benefited lobstermen.
In June, Trump announced a rollback of protections at Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine national monument, a 5,000-square-mile conservation area that he reopened to commercial fishing.