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Maine lobster won’t be banned from the EU after all

PORTLAND, Maine — In a victory for American and Canadian lobstermen, the European Union says it is rejecting a Swedish proposal to ban live American lobster from the EU’s 28 member countries.

After finding several dozen American lobsters living off its shores, Sweden claimed that the crustacean threatened to interbreed with native European species, or bring new diseases to local fisheries.

But members of the European Commission’s Invasive Alien Species Committee rejected that argument this week. In an email to Maine Public Radio, a Commission official says it has told Sweden that American Lobster will not be proposed for a blacklist of banned species, and it will instead pursue measures that would be less restrictive on trade.

“It really would have messed up our markets on an international level, and certainly would have had a major economic impact within the state of Maine,” says Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association.

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Tselikis says Maine’s lobster trade with European countries is worth about $200 million annually, maybe a fifth of the state’s overall market. At the key EU committee meeting this week, she adds, the case for American lobster was pressed by Spain, Italy, and France.

“They really understood the science. Understood the trade relationship between the United States and Canada and all of the countries in Europe that import live lobster,” Tselikis says. “So we are thrilled with the official word out of Europe today.”

The news caps almost a year of effort by the industry and Maine’s congressional delegation to get the EU to reject Sweden’s claim – although interest remains in finding ways to ensure that Maine lobsters end up on Europeans’ plates – and not in their waters.

The Swedish embassy in Washington referred inquiries to the country’s minister of the environment, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

A.J. Higgins contributed to this story.


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