Sustainable Employment and Safety:
- The plant aspires to become the largest live lobster processor in Maine. In 2015, after just three seasons, Maine Fair Trade reached its aggressive goal of handling more than 8 million pounds of lobster. With 130 to 150 employees, it is our belief that increased Maine production improves the economic position of employees and their families and has a positive impact on local communities and businesses. The company is proud to be a part of Prospect Harbor and long term future of Maine. Maine Fair Trade is thankful to have been awarded Coastal Enterprises, Inc.’s Sustaining Communities Award in 2014 and we appreciate CEI’s continued assistance and support.
- The plant’s production employees are paid above Maine’s minimum wage with overtime on this base rate (when applicable). As an added incentive and to show our appreciation, in the past, it has been the plant’s practice to increase base wages for returning employees annually. All full time employees are eligible for benefits after 90 days including health, dental, paid holidays and paid time off. Moreover, the company is proud to offer employees the opportunity to participate in its 401K plan with a designated corporate match. We believe these initiatives could be a strong driver for further rural employment opportunities and a strong community partnership. We appreciate our workers efforts and hope to continue a practice of offering employees a chance to accrue meaningful and sustainable employment.
- It is important to explore novel arrangements that will create additional value for employees and the company. In this vain, Maine Fair Trade started a pilot piece work program that provides committed workers an opportunity to make additional compensation.
- Located in rural Prospect Harbor, transportation has been organized from Ellsworth/Hancock County and Washington County to simplify the commute of some workers. Transportation is being provided by Washington Hancock Community Agency (WHCA) Transportation’s Sun Rides program under a renewable matching federal grant. Through this non-profit, workers pay a discounted rate.
- We have assembled a team of individuals to update Maine Fair Trade’s safety programs. It is a work in progress but, through their efforts, we hope to make Maine Fair Trade a model for the lobster processing industry. In 2015, Maine Fair Trade passed its second annual Safety Works audit. Safety Works commended the plant on the many improvements to its program.
- Maine Fair Trade is proud to have partnered with Maine’s Rural Development program in an effort to provide more affordable, accessible housing. In December 2015, the company received Planning Board approval to house up to 24 employees in mobile homes near the site.
Products and Sustainability (Know Your Source):
Where do lobsters come from? The plant’s Prospect Harbor, Maine locale is close to abundant and valuable sources of U.S. and Canadian lobsters. The company has an extensive procurement networks, which are strategically located throughout the Atlantic Provinces and Gulf of Maine.
Seasonality: As a natural product, North American lobsters (Homarus Americanus) are subject to seasonal changes and government regulations affecting supply and product characteristics. Generally, seasons are: Canadian Spring Season runs from mid-April to July, Maine Season runs from June to November, Canadian Fall Season runs from mid-October to January.
Soft Shell Lobsters
In the summer and early autumn lobsters migrate to the warmer waters inshore to shed their old shells (molt) and begin the re-growth process. Lobsters undergoing molting have softer shells and are generally weaker with lower meat content and are considered to be very delicious.
Hard Shell Lobsters
Hard shell lobsters are found in the deep colder waters of the North Atlantic. These lobsters have a harder shell and are stronger with a higher meat content. Hard shell lobsters are available year round however in the summer
Sustainability. While no fishery is perfect, many of our lobsters come from areas certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Counsel such as Nova Scotia and Maine. Others come from fisheries like Newfoundland that evaluate the effectiveness of their systems. Each fishery has laws protecting juvenile and berried lobsters and mechanisms to monitor overfishing. Overall, catches have been solid and reports good, although northern migration appears to be taking place (likely unrelated to overfishing). Major factors determining what lobsters are processed include, without limitation, market conditions, the availability of appropriate product based on grade, supplier relationships, and the time of the season.
Environmental Footprint Reduction:
- Maine Fair Trade continued to send lobster waste to Coast of Maine to be composted. The shells are mixed with other materials and made into things like organic gardening products.
- Through a local disposal contract, Maine Fair Trade spent an estimated $1320 on cardboard recycling in 2015 (based monthly rates).
- Maine Fair Trade collects cans and bottles for local charities on a voluntary basis.
- The company submits reports to the Department of Marine Resources about received lobsters.
Maine Fair Trade Partners:
Creating a thriving and competitive U.S. processing industry is important to us. Although subject to change based on the needs of our business, currently, much of the processing of Maine Fair Trade products happens in Maine by Maine Fair Trade or third party processors.
- In 2015, the Maine Fair Trade plant passed both USDC and UL Responsible Sourcing audits. The UL representative audited the plant’s compliance with child labor laws, age documents, labor contracts, right to work documents, whether prison labor or physical abuse is present, and compliance with other laws/employment standards. Auditors reviewed employee wages and benefits, working hours, health and safety, disciplinary practices, and environmental issues. The plant received a perfect score and is working towards improving areas of weakness identified during the process.
- Additionally, our policy requires major 3rd party processors sign a Vendor Social Compliance Commitment stating: employees will have reasonable hours, legal compensation, and won’t be discriminated against. The commitment also requires no forced or child labor be used.
- If a violation is reported to our legal affairs department, a letter is sent requesting compliance.
- If a vendor is found guilty of a breach of law, it is our policy to review their case and discontinue services if the violation is serious and likely to persist.
- At times, Paturel International, our New Brunswick facility, assists with processing and packaging of Maine Fair Trade products. Paturel is a BRC certified plant and passed 2014 & 2015 UL Responsible Sourcing audits. Finally, Paturel is honored to be a member of the Lobster Council of Canada’s board of directors. The council is comprised of fishermen and industry participants and assists with important initiatives like disseminating pertinent industry information and getting the Nova Scotia lobster fishery MSC certified.
- Our community and employees are important to us. In 2015, we were able to exceed 2014’s $12,518 with the following community investments being made by or on behalf of Maine Fair Trade.