Maine lobster may seem ubiquitous in New York City now, but that hasn’t always been the case. “Lobster was much more of a regional product 20 years ago,” explains Maine Lobster Council Director Marianne Lacroix. “But the catch has really been rising in Maine. So we’ve developed more products and found more markets available, and lobster has taken off.”
Part of that is due to a the industry’s legacy of sustainability. “Fishermen have been commercially fishing for lobster in Maine for 150 years, and they started putting conservation measures in place then,” says Lacroix. “That’s why there are still a lot of lobsters in Maine when a lot of other fisheries have been depleted.”
Another big part of the demand spike was technology advances that enabled easier lobster roll creation: “We can ship live lobsters to any part of the world, but over the last few years, more lobster processing facilities opened to pick and cook the meat,” explains Lacroix. “That made lobster easier for cooks to work with, since they don’t have to shuck the lobsters themselves. They can get lobster meat and lobster tails for ready-to-eat dishes like the lobster roll.”
And it’s the lobster roll that will play a central part in a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Sandy this week that coincides with the start of the most productive part of lobster season. “We can fish year-round, but the season picks up at the end of June,” says Lacroix. “We wanted to do an event to bring attention to that. New Yorkers eat a lot of Maine lobster, so that made the city a natural choice. The fishers came up with an idea to make it a fundraising event. With Sandy, when lobster couldn’t get through, we realized what a big market New York is. So we decided to raise some money for the victims of the storm.”
The fishers then enlisted the help of the entire industry. “The lobstermen are donating the lobster, the lobster dealers are transporting it to processors for shucking and then bringing it to Luke’s Lobster in Maine, and then Luke’s will bring it to New York in the lobster truck,” Lacroix explains. “They’ll sell the lobster for three days, and they’ll be in a different location each day.”
So go eat for a good cause. On June 27, find the truck at Broadway and 57th; it’ll be at 47th and Madison on June 28. Proceeds from both days will benefit the Sandy-dedicated pool at the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, as will June 27 proceeds from the brick-and-mortar Luke’s outlet in Brooklyn Bridge Park. On Saturday, June 29, the truck will make a stop at Pier 13 in Hoboken, and proceeds from that day will go to the New Jersey Hurricane Relief Fund.