In a perfect world, this story in the Globe would be illustrated with a picture of a lobster rocking a tatoo that read "Maine Thuggin'" or possibly a cute lady lobster in a MAINE Neighborhoodie. Sadly, no photoshop at the inn, but it is stll interesting to learn that
Under a new program that kicks off today in Portland, lobster dealers will be encouraged to tag the catch, identifying it as being caught in Maine waters. The plastic tags will hang from the claw knuckles and state simply: ``Certified Maine Lobster." On the front will be a picture of a lobster and a lighthouse; on the back, ``lobsterfrommaine.com." At a press conference, Governor John Baldacci will tag the first ``official" lobster, caught in Casco Bay.
At least at this time of the year, this bit qualifies as the kind of thing that makes you go hmmmm. Obvs, Maine wants to promote its indigenous product, and the Globe article notes "Like Idaho potatoes, Vermont maple syrup, and Florida oranges, Maine lobster has become a name brand." From my landlocked perspective, controlling this appelation seems a bit trickier, in that the idea of terroir makes less sense when you are talking about so much eau, rather than a patch of terre. For something less mobile, like naming the Bluepoint as opposed to Welfleet oyster, that makes sense, but its not clear to me how being caught by a boat out of Portland, rather than Portsmouth or Halifax, makes a difference.
A bit further into the article comes a clue:
Maine sells 60 to 70 percent of its catch to Canada, where much of it is processed and packaged as lobster meat, then sold back to US fish shops and restaurants as a ``product of Canada." (Canada has several lobster processing plants, which are subsidized by the government, while Maine has three privately owned plants.)
According to US law, retailers are required to disclose the country of origin for seafood, says Millar. But federal law also states that if a US product is radically transformed in another country, it becomes a product of that country. Hence, a Maine lobster sold to Canada where it is taken out of the shell, cooked or left raw, and then packaged is a product of Canada.
Viz the recent move by Whole Foods away from selling whole live lobsters in their stores, branding the unprocessed Maine lobsters as such might be a way to leverage the Maine Lobster brand to compete with processed lobster products produced in Canada. Watch this space for more deets, I imagine.