AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — President Barack Obama's administration is working to head off Sweden's push to ban imports of American lobsters to Europe.
In an April 12 letter to Maine's congressional delegation, the U.S. State Department says the administration is in close contact with officials in the European Union to ensure that U.S. lobster exports are not "unjustifiably restricted."
Julia Frifield, assistant secretary for legislative affairs, said the administration is consulting with experts to evaluate the scientific basis for Sweden's assessment that 32 American lobsters found in Swedish waters pose a risk to the smaller European variety.
Sweden has asked the European Union to bar imports of live American lobsters into the 28-nation bloc, saying the crustaceans could spread disease and overwhelm the European variety by outcompeting them for food.
The ban would also apply to Canadian lobster exports. Lobsters caught in U.S. and Canadian waters are the same species.
The U.S. and Canada export a combined $200 million in lobster to Europe annually, and Europe took nearly one-fifth of all U.S. lobster exports last year. Lobsters are also Maine's signature product, depicted on license plates and tourist T-shirts.
The North American lobster industry says the proposed ban is motivated by business interests. They point to a Swedish report that says a ban on American crustaceans "would potentially be beneficial in terms of profits and jobs" for Europe. The report also says the discovery of the 32 American lobsters over the past eight years raises the prospect of shell disease and red-tail disease.