Maine is seeing a lobster boom both in terms of pounds caught and demand from China. It’s good for fisherman, but also kind of complicated:
“Each of Maine’s 5,785 lobstermen is an independent business: A license allows its holder to own one boat, and he must do the fishing himself. Each day, the lobstermen sell their catch to dealers for shipment across the country and around the world. State law prohibits dealers from owning boats and lobstermen from becoming dealers, ensuring this $500 million industry remains decentralized.
‘That’s a really tough concept for the Chinese. They’re like, “We want to own everything,”’ Bisaillon-Cary said. ‘We’re like, “You can’t do that.”’
Instead, the state has tried to steer Chinese investors toward plants that process lobsters — or other industries altogether. A Chinese firm purchased a struggling paper mill in 2010 and recently announced investments expected to add hundreds of jobs. Another Chinese company is building a health-care center in an abandoned shoe factory that caters to foreigners seeking medical care. State schools and colleges are wooing international students.”
And why have fat Maine lobsters, as opposed to spiny Pacific ones, taken off in popularity? Chinese people think they taste better. Also, to show off:
“At the five-star Conrad Hotel in Beijing, chef Mirko Sun dishes up lobster porridge, lobster bisque with garlic croutons and a lobster salad with fresh herbs. The crustacean sells for roughly $42 a pound, about a quarter of the average urban worker’s weekly income.
‘For most Chinese people, eating lobster is about face,’ Sun said. ‘Mostly people only order it to treat important guests.’
But Maine is not the only source of the crustacean. China gets much of its lobster from Australia, although it is the spiny-tailed variety that residents here deride as tougher and less flavorful.”
Obligatory David Foster Wallace link from 12 (!) years ago.