by Katherine Rossmoore
The iconic American lobster, found only in the Atlantic from Newfoundland down to Long Island, NY, is one of the world’s most recognizable food items. Unfortunately for Massachusetts’ lobster harvesters, its image has become synonymous with the State of Maine. The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, in conjunction with the state’s Department of Agricultural Resources, is hoping to change this scenario by teaming up to promote Massachusetts lobsters as part of its Commonwealth Quality program.
Launched in September of 2010, the Commonwealth Quality label ensures best practices regarding safety, quality, and environmental sustainability for Massachusetts grown and harvested products including produce, forest products, aquaculture, dairy products, and now lobsters. Each separate industry has its own guidelines to guarantee that the Massachusetts products are harvested using optimal practices. For lobstermen who are certified (there are currently seven), this seal guarantees traceability to the harvester. This program could potentially allow Massachusetts lobstermen to negotiate better prices, especially with consumers and re-sellers who want to ensure that they are buying local.
For Dave Casoni, the Secretary/Treasurer of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association and a lobsterman himself for almost 40 years (F/V Margaret M out of Plymouth), there is no downside to becoming Commonwealth Quality certified. “This program ensures that the lobsters are truly local and harvested using best possible marine resources,” says Casoni.
The lobsters caught by certified harvesters will be labeled with knuckle tags with the Commonwealth Quality seal. Think of it as a “Made in the USA” tag for our state, with the added bonus of ensuring sustainability and best practices by the lobstermen and women certified by the state.
For lobster-specific info (scroll down):