BOSTON — The state legislature is finally poised to make a major change to a law that has limited the sale, transport and processing of unfrozen shell-on lobster parts.

Experts say the global market for Massachusetts landed lobster will be more readily accommodated with the new law.

The State Senate had previously approved a similar measure in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018. The Senate proposals have attracted a bi-partisan coalition of state Senators seeking to reform the outdated lobster laws and support economic opportunities to grow the industry and related jobs.

The state budget conference committee report adopted today gives final approval of the lobster language, which authorizes dealers licensed by the Department of Public Health, to proceed under the new framework.

While the sale of live, cooked, and canned lobster is legal in the state, the law currently requires Massachusetts lobstermen and seafood vendors to sell or transport lobster out-of-state for processing. This often means that Bay State lobsters are brought back for sale to consumers with a ‘Product of Canada’ label. Up to 80-percent of lobsters landed in the state are sent away for processing.

A Division of Marine Fisheries issued a report recommending adoption of the proposal citing an evolving interest from consumers in value-added lobster in the form of shell-on tails and claws.  The report says that the global market for Massachusetts landed lobster would be more readily accommodated with the new law.

“Removing archaic barriers to lobster processing in Massachusetts is a big boost to New Bedford’s local economy where our businesses can finally expand and create the jobs,” said Senator Montigny (D-New Bedford) and lead cosponsor of the bipartisan effort.

“For years, the Senate has repeatedly supported this policy and it is a relief that we can finally deliver it to the Governor’s desk.  I thank Senator Tarr for his longtime commitment to this issue and look forward to this finally being enacted into law.”

Lawmakers say that shifting handling from Maine and Canada will boost the viability and prosperity of the industry which will result in job creation.  The lobster industry is a critical part of the Commonwealth’s economy and heritage with more than 900 licensed lobstermen landing

Currently, up to 80-percent of lobsters landed in the state are sent to out of state processing facilities and industry leaders say the move will facilitate opportunities to create and grow jobs in the state. The Marine Fisheries report notes that the lobster demand has spiked and has continued to evolve in favor of processed lobster parts.  The report noted that most US consumers do not know how to prepare live lobster and prefer processed lobster products.

“East Coast Seafood Group is very pleased that lobster processing expansion will now become law.  We applaud Senator Tarr, The Baker-Polito administration and the bi-partisan effort to create jobs within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Senior Vice President of East Coast Seafood Group Bob Blais.

“The Law will further expand a multi-million dollar industry in the state, and most of all support the hardworking fishermen that drive this industry.”

The provision and the final version of the budget bill must still be approved by Governor Charlie Baker.

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