Halfway through 2016, the large importer that has increased its spending on Maine lobsters the most is none other than Sweden, the nation leading an effort to ban them from being imported to Europe.

By July 2016, Sweden had bought $570,711 worth of American lobsters from Maine, a 523 percent increase from the $91,527 it had spent by the same time the year before. By the end of 2015, it had bought $761,017 worth of Maine lobsters.

Japan saw its appetite for imported Maine lobster grow faster than Sweden’s, at 645 percent, but it was a much smaller market, importing less than half what Sweden usually does, or has done so far this year.

Most of the Maine lobster imported to Sweden this year has been alive.

In its bid to label the American lobster as an invasive species, which would trigger the ban of live imports, Sweden has emphasized that the bid wouldn’t kill the American market, just switch it over to a cooked, canned or frozen one.

Jeff Bennett, a special trade representative at Maine International Trade Center, said he didn’t know why Swedish lobster imports had skyrocketed, or if it had anything to do with the possibility of an EU ban.

“The Swedish government may not want our lobster there, but the Swedish chef obviously wants it on their menu and the Swedish consumer obviously wants it on their plate,” Bennett said. “More now than ever before.”

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