BREWER, Maine — Maine's governor signed a bill Monday that makes lobsters the state's official crustacean, and he traveled to sign it in front of the students who informally lobbied lawmakers to make it happen.
The third-graders at Brewer Community School were learning about the state of Maine earlier this year when they discovered that lobsters — what a lot of people across the USA think of when they think of Maine — had not been honored as an official state anything:
- The moose is the official state animal.
- Blueberries are the official state berry, and blueberry pie is the official state pie.
- Honey bees are the official state insect.
But lobsters weren't always considered worthy of honor, especially in Maine, now the largest lobster-producing state in the nation.
In colonial times, the crustaceans were so plentiful that Native Americans used them as fertilizer in the fields and bait for fishing. A little later, lobsters were fed to prisoners, indentured servants and children, according to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine.
Now lobster is a delicacy and can cost $10 a pound or more, especially in restaurants.
With the guidance of their teachers, the Brewer students wrote letters to state senators and representatives, who introduced House Paper 1609 for consideration, and the class went to the State House in Augusta to press their case. Brewer is located across the Penobscot River from Bangor, Maine, about 70 miles northeast of Augusta.
“It’s a tremendous learning experience for them,” Patti Scripture, a teacher at the Brewer Community School, said a month ago when the students traveled to the Maine State House. “Learning how to write a letter, getting to learn parts of the government, talking to the representatives, knowing what it takes to get a bill through, all that is just phenomenal.”
After hearing from the students, the Legislature's joint State and Local Government Committee unanimously OK'd sending the bill to the floors of both houses. The bill passed the Maine House on March 24 and the Maine Senate exactly a week ago.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage came to the students Monday to sign the bill into law, and they crowded around the desk where he was sitting to see him write his signature.
Follow Dustin Wlodkowski on Twitter: @DWlodkowski