This lobster is ready to take off his rubber bands for battle.

Credit: Pat Kight

Sweden Declares War On American Lobsters

May 2, 2016

Sweden used to seem so nice.

But today, that Scandinavian scourge is New England’s newest nemesis; a malevolent menace to the maritime.

Sweden has declared a lobster war.

Specifically, Sweden has asked the European Union to declare North American lobsters—Homarus Americanus-- an invasive species. They claim that it endangers local native species. Really, one specific species: the local native lobster that Swedish fishermen catch.

Apparently North American lobsters have been found in the waters of Sweden, Norway, and England. Not many, mind you: 32 of them over the past eight years. Some, reportedly, with their claws bound in rubber bands slapped on them on our side of the Atlantic.  

They clearly didn’t swim over by themselves; presumably they were among the thousands of lobsters—more than $100 million dollars’ worth—shipped to Europe from New England every year. How a few dozen of them ended up released back into the sea remains a mystery. Some suspect animal-rights activists were involved.

Regardless, Sweden contends that these North American lobsters are putting Swedish lobsters at grave risk, and must be stopped from storming their Scandinavian waters, bringing along their North American diseases and parasites. 

Massachusetts lawmakers in Washington suggest that Sweden’s suspect science is a bogus façade for the real motivation: eliminating the competition for Swedish lobster in the EU’s 28 countries.

For a while, the fight against this Swedish incursion was joined mostly by Mainers and Canadians—and, reportedly, by European chefs, who don’t want to be forced to serve inferior Swedish lobster meat if their supply of the good stuff is cut off.

Now, the battle has been joined by Massachusetts as well. 

With Congressman Seth Moulton—who represents the lobster-rich North Shore—taking the lead, the entire Commonwealth delegation sent a letter last week in opposition to Sweden’s scurrilous attack.

That letter, signed by all nine U.S. Representatives and Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, went to someone who knows a little about lobster himself: Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry has been on the record for years in favor of New England lobsters, and as U.S. Senator was known to wager them against other regions’ food when Boston sports teams played in championships.

A few weeks ago, his State Department assured Maine’s delegation that the Obama administration is “in close contact with European officials to try to ensure the U.S. exports of live lobsters are not unjustifiably restricted.”

Who do you love?

What’s all this talk about people hating Washington insiders? You wouldn’t know it by the popularity of long-serving U.S. Senators back home in their New England states.

Four of the top five Senators in constituent approval hail from northern New England, according to a new report from Morning Consult. Vermont’s Bernie Sanders topped the list at 80 percent, followed by Susan Collins of Maine at 79%. Angus King of Maine and Pat Leahy of Vermont were close behind, in fourth and fifth respectively.

King, Maine’s former Governor, is in his first Senate term—but the other three have served in Washington for decades.

All 12 Senators from the region have approval from more than half of respondents in their home states. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, just elected to the Senate in 2013 after a long career in the House of Representatives, has the lowest rating of the group, at 51%—but that’s more from still being relatively unknown rather than disliked. Just 19% disapprove, with 30% offering no opinion.

Elizabeth Warren’s approval stands at a strong 61%, according to Morning Consult. Here are the full numbers:

Steps forward for women serving
New Hampshire is taking understandable pride in the confirmation of a native daughter last week. General Lori Robinson, a former Bartlett resident and University of New Hampshire alumna, will be commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD—the first woman to head a top Unified Combatant Command.

New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who sits on the Armed Services Committee that held a hearings on Robinson earlier in the month, has noted that the General started her military career in the ROTC program at UNH, 34 years ago.

Robinson’s historic confirmation came just as the House Armed Services Committee approved a $610 billion defense authorization bill—the first since women were approved for full combat roles. 

It is the first version of the annual funding bill, and will doubtless change dramatically as it works its way through the full House and Senate.

The most attention-getting provision in the bill, as relates to women serving in the military, requires women to register in the event of a draft. Though no draft is expected any time soon, this is considered a significant sign of the growing gender equality in the armed services.

But, as usual, other provisions made their way into the massive legislation with help from Congresswoman Niki Tsongas of Lowell.

Tsongas co-authored the PROTECT Act, which was introduced this month and quickly adopted as an amendment to the defense authorization bill. It further addresses sexual assault in the military, including a provision making professional retaliation over allegations a crime.

Tsongas also successfully pushed for measures ensuring that service women receive gender-specific clothing and equipment, including body armor.

 


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