Gov. Paul LePage and Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher visited the 66th Maine Lobster Festival Aug. 1.

Festival Director Chuck Kruger, also a state representative from Thomaston, had presented a bill (LD 486) that LePage signed to bring additional funds — nearly $3 million — to the lobster industry across Europe, Asia and America.

"This is a big deal for the Maine lobster industry," said Kruger.

"If we don't maintain the tradition of Senator Muskie and work hard to protect our land, air, and water, there will be no lobsters, no festival, and no quality of life on the Maine coast," he added.

"The fishermen of Maine are the epitome of hard work and true independence," said LePage.

Click for photos from the 2013 Maine Lobster Festival.

Click for photos from the 2013 Maine Lobster Festival Sea Goddess Coronation.

LePage expressed how proud he is of what is happening in the industry here in Maine. He said the lobster industry is a sustainable fishery.

"We want to have this industry for the next 100 years and the only way we will is if we are good stewards of the ocean," said LePage.

He acknowledged that people are concerned about the sustainability of this industry for the future of their children and grandchildren, and commended those involved for the work they have been doing.

"August is lobster month," declared LePage, who said every governor in the United States will be getting Maine lobster sent to them in an effort to encourage them to enjoy it and tell everybody about it.

"The one thing we need is marketing," said LePage.

LePage said Maine has three issues when it comes to economic development.

The people who are saying we are not creating new jobs are the ones preventing it — the legislature," said LePage.

"We are anti-business. Our taxes are too high, our energy is too high, and we are not business-friendly," he said. "We are trying, but it takes all 181 people in legislature along with the governor to make a difference."

Keliher, commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources, has been working closely with the governor on the marketing initiative.

Keliher explained that raising the fees on fishermen's licensing will assist in the marketing collaborative. The proposed three-year plan should see $750,000 in the first year. The second year, $1.5 million, and the third year $2.3 million.

Lobstering brought in $300 million in product and more than 126 million pounds of lobster last year.

"All in all it is worth more than $1 billion to our coastal economy," said Keliher.

The key of the Maine lobster industry is not the management — it is the fishermen, he said.

"If we do nothing we will receive nothing," said Keliher about marketing the Maine lobster industry.

David Cousens, president of the Maine Lobstermen's Association, said the long-standing eco-friendly harvesting standards the fishermen practice have made what used to be a 25 million pound harvest the successful 126 million pound this year.

Cousens said the v-notch placed on a pregnant female's flipper — signifying it cannot be harvested — has allowed lobster to get to full size. Also traps designed with escape vents allow little lobsters to go in and eat, but allow them to get out.

"The problem facing us now is economics," said Cousens.

The price of lobsters is extremely low, but the cost of doing business is extremely high, he said.

Cousens also said word needs to get out as to how healthy lobster is to eat. It is low in cholesterol and fat, and high in protein and Omega 3.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@courierpublicationsllc.com.