BAR HARBOR — One of Bar Harbor’s most frequent cruise ship visitors is set to purchase a literal ton of local lobster next time they pull into port.
The planned purchase of 2,000 pounds of lobster by Holland America Lines for passengers on the liner Massdam comes during a crisis-of-sorts for the local lobster industry, the result of historically low prices and high fuel and bait costs.
“If we could make a big enough thing out of this, that the trickle down effect could come out of this and help our prices...it's only doing good,” said local lobsterman and influential industry representative Jon Carter. “Any new market that can be developed now is good for the industry.”
Local officials and lobstermen have for years discussed the potentials of selling to cruise lines, but regulations, red tape and the sheer enormity of the procurement process have been seen as insurmountable roadblocks, said town councilor Paul Paradis, one of the main coordinators of the project. The current crisis in the lobster industry, he said, sparked a renewed interest and an energetic response.
After considering the issue he thought, “there’s ships here all the time, why don’t they have Bar Harbor lobster on them? I saw this as a good chance for everyone to get on the same page, and everyone wins.”
A number of people have been involved in the effort, Mr. Paradis said, including State Senator Brian Langley, chamber of commerce director Chris Fogg, Mr. Carter, and Cruise Maine’s Amy Powers.
Ms. Powers used her connections in the industry to contact Stein Kruse, the president of Holland America, to explain the local fishing situation and ask if he was interested in maybe helping out. She chose Holland America because their ships are the most frequent visitors to town during the summer months.
“He responded to my email within 20 minutes…that they would be happy to consider doing that type of transaction,” Ms. Powers said. “I thought that was really monumental.”
Once the deal was in the works, the big question became one of process. Just how, exactly, does one deliver 2,000 lobsters to a floating city? All manner of red tape and government security approval are necessary, not to mention the ability to cull and deliver the order.
For this, and with recommendations from Mr. Carter and Mr. Langley, Mr. Paradis turned to Warren Pettigrow of the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound. Mr. Pettigrow is currently the largest buyer of Bar Harbor lobsters, and already has all of the equipment, staff and certifications necessary to do the job right, Mr. Paradis said.
“I called Warren, and he said… ‘we’re going to get one shot at this. We’ve got to make it a raging success.’ He was very interested.”
Mr. Pettigrow said that to deliver 2,000 grade-A lobsters, his company would have to sort through around 8,000 lobsters. That may sound like a big job to the lay person, but he said it is actually one of the smaller projects he has going on right now.
The sale represents a very positive turn of events for the local lobster industry, Mr. Pettigrow said.
“The ships can be a real headache for the fishermen. Before, none of them seemed to have any gain,” he said. “We think this is one small step in the right direction. We might be able to supply fresh, local Bar Harbor lobster to a number of cruise ships coming to the area down the road.”
A Holland America Lines ship carrying more than 1,200 passengers is set to drop anchor off Bar Harbor at the end of next week, and the delivery of local lobster is likely to occur then. All involved are hoping that the event goes well.
“We wanted it to be a local solution to a local problem,” Mr. Paradis said. “We’ve got one shot at this. We want to make sure it’s a success, and a local success.”
As plans for the shipment came to realization earlier in July, Mr. Paradis wrote town councilor chairman Ruth Eveland to inform her of everything that was going on and to explain the potential outcomes of the situation. Ms. Eveland summed up her opinion of the matter rather concisely in a return email.
“Very good work,” she wrote. And that was all.