When Americans think about lobster, Maine often comes to mind. But Nova Scotia has emerged as a fierce competitor in exporting lobsters, particularly to Europe. Last year, American lobstermen sold only slightly more to Europe than their Canadian counterparts.
That balance could soon shift given the Canadian-European trade pact, which eliminated an 8 percent European tariff on live lobster when it went into effect in September. Tariffs on frozen and processed Canadian lobster will be phased out in the next three to five years as part of the agreement.
The elimination of European tariffs is “the single most challenging issue” for the American lobster industry, said Annie Tselikis, the executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association, which represents companies that buy lobster from Maine fishermen. “This trade agreement does give Canada a huge leg up in the European marketplace,” she said.
Ms. Tselikis said the pact was encouraging American companies to invest in new facilities in Canada to qualify for the lower European tariff.
“If the argument is you’re not going to develop this trade policy because you’re worried about outsourcing jobs — well, here we are, potentially outsourcing jobs due to an absence of trade policy,” she said.
Gidney Fisheries, which exports live and frozen lobster, is poised to take advantage of the changing terms of trade. Last year, in anticipation of increased demand, the factory invested in state-of-the-art technology to set itself apart.
The company imported a German machine, sometimes used to make cold-pressed juice, that creates pressure of up to 87,000 pounds per square inch. The machine compresses the lobster in its shell, breaking the connective tissue, killing the lobster in seconds and allowing the meat to be extracted entirely raw — a selling point for chefs and consumers, as the process is considered relatively humane.