' It will take a lot of videos of guys on boats pulling traps to offset this one'

Bill Packard: Video does not represent Maine lobster industry

Wed, 09/25/2013 - 12:00pm

I hesitated to post this because I don't want to bring more attention to PETA, but after getting my thoughts together, I decided to put it out there.

We now have the somewhat famous lobster processing video. Before I go any further, let's be clear. In no way am I defending PETA. This piece has nothing to do with PETA at all. My whole deal is based on a sentence that I invested money in to get trademarked, "Think Like a Customer." Never mind PETA, what does the Customer think of the video?

The issue with the video that has upset some people is that it appears that there is little, if any, regard for a living thing. I don't know if lobsters are mammals, insects or any of the classes commenters have put them in, but they are alive. It says so any place you want to buy a lobster. "Live Maine Lobster." So the question is not if this is humane or similar to a slaughterhouse. The question is: Is this how we want the Maine lobster industry to be perceived?

I checked around a little and the video has had some traction and has been shared so that many viewers may not know that it originated from PETA. And it really doesn't make any difference. I don't eat much lobster, but I've been close to the industry just by living here. In the 1970s, I hauled lobsters to Logan Airport and to a truck that transferred them to New York City. Up until recently, the majority of the Maine lobster business was "Live Maine Lobster." I get that. Maybe that's why I was so surprised at how the lobsters were handled in the video. From what I knew, the value was in "live." My whole life, lobsters were handled carefully from the fisherman to the plate because their value was in them being live.

Shipping live lobsters around the world has no value added and I get that. Processing lobster to add value is certainly the way to go to stabilize prices and raise the value of the product, overall. I hope that's enough so that you don't think I've got my head up my rear and have no idea what I'm talking about. Well, if you do think I've got my head up my rear and have no idea what I'm talking about, you probably know me personally.

People all over the world who potentially are prepared to spend their money for Maine lobster have seen a video that is very disturbing. It's out there and there's nothing anybody can do about that. When I watched it, I didn't get very far into it when I said to myself, uh-oh. This does not look good. Before too long the Maine Lobsterman's Association called PETA all sorts of names and dismissed them. The Maine Department of Marine Resources was no better, saying that the processor meets the requirements of the state. All sorts of locals posted comments about PETA, but I have to wonder how many people watched the video and understand that the world now believes that is how the lobster industry in Maine operates.

Monday morning quarterbacking would have me suggesting that they could have said this or could have said that, but the only suggestion I can make is that no comment would have been much better than what was said. The message I think the consumer got from the Lobsterman's Association and Marine Resources is: "This is how we do things in Maine. If you don't like it eat something else."

So here's the bottom line. If we locals all ate lobster three meals a day every day, we could only keep a few boats fishing. It's the folks in NYC, Orlando, San Diego and Paris who sustain this industry. We shouldn't ignore that fact. It will take a lot of videos of guys on boats pulling traps to offset this one.

I can't help that the video happened, but I do understand that 'outcome = event + response.' If we don't change our response, it concerns me that the outcome will not be very positive. As the following of this video grows, more and more people will think that this how everyone in Maine treats lobster. The world is much bigger than our little piece of heaven and while I don't think we should throw anyone under the bus, I do believe that it's important to share with the world that this video does not represent the Maine lobster industry.

 Bill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of BPackard.com.  He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant. 


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