Nova Scotia

Sweden not giving up fight over North American lobster imports

Sweden isn't giving up on a long-running battle with Canada and the U.S. over lobsters that have turned up in Swedish waters.

EU rejected Sweden's proposed ban last fall

Scott Beede returns an undersized lobster while fishing off Mount Desert, Maine, in 2012. Sweden is digging in on its opposition to North American lobsters. (Robert F. Bukaty/Canadian Press)

Sweden isn't giving up on a long-running battle with Canada and the U.S. over lobsters that have turned up in Swedish waters.

Officials with Sweden told The Associated Press that their country is working on a new proposal about how to deal with American lobsters that have turned up. A controversy about whether American lobster is invasive in Swedish waters has simmered for almost a year.

The species known as American lobster is found along the Atlantic coast of North America, from Labrador down to the Gulf of Maine and as far south as North Carolina. 

Sweden had wanted the European Union to consider a ban of imports of American lobsters. That call came after Sweden announced it had found 32 American lobsters in its waters.

European Union officials turned away that request in October after American and Canadian scientists and politicians raised concerns about a lack of evidence that the lobsters warranted such a sweeping ban. But Swedish officials told the AP that the country remains concerned that American lobsters could interfere with European lobsters, which have economic value.

Lobsters had banded claws

"We are preparing a new proposal on national and regional measures on the American lobster that will be presented for the Swedish government this winter," said Sofia Brockmark, a spokeswoman for the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management.

Brockmark and other Swedish officials did not provide more specifics about Sweden's upcoming proposal, other than that it will address invasive lobsters with countrywide and regional measures as opposed to an international ban.

Live lobster exports from the U.S. and Canada are estimated at $200 million a year.

Some of the lobsters that were found in Europe were wearing the rubber bands that are put on their claws in captivity. That led to speculation that they were imported lobsters that either escaped into the wild or were released.

Educating buyers in Sweden

Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association, said her organization is working with others in the industry, as well as American and Canadian government agencies, to help prevent American lobsters from escaping in Europe.

The effort will include educating buyers in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, Casoni said.

"The goal is to keep them going to Europe and hopefully find some mitigation factors," she said. "They hold them in pounds just like over here. Sometimes one or two might escape."

The European Union is of the opinion that the issue now lies with Sweden, said Iris Petsa, a spokeswoman for the EU's European Commission. She said the country would still need to notify the European Commission before applying restrictions on national trade.

"If Sweden wishes to adopt other measures not affecting trade, they can do so without informing the European Commission," Petsa said.

With files from CBC's Paul Withers