For the third year in a row and only the third time ever, Maine lobster fishermen landed over 120 million pounds with a record overall value of $456,935,346, according to preliminary landings data reported by the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
At $3.69 per pound, the 123,676,100 pounds landed represented an improvement of 79 cents per pound over 2013, the largest single-year increase in per-pound value since DMR and National Marine Fisheries Service began keeping records. The one-year increase in overall value was also the largest on record and at $86,653,573 was more than the total value of the fishery 21 years earlier.
“The Maine lobster industry’s longstanding commitment to responsible harvesting practices continues to sustain not only this fishery but also Maine’s coastal economy,” said Gov. Paul LePage.
For the second time, the department is reporting bonuses received by lobster harvesters which, while they only include reports from just over half of Maine’s co-ops, total over $7.5 million.
“While this figure is not complete, it does provide a better indication of the overall economic benefit of this fishery,” said Patrick Keliher, the state Department of Marine Resources commissioner. Added to the overall landed value, the bonus figure brings the total to more than $464 million.
“During the 2014 season we saw a perfect mix of conditions for economic improvement in the Maine lobster fishery,” said Keliher. “Not only were landings at an historic high again, a more predictably timed shed improved industry’s ability to manage the supply.”
Unlike the 2012 season when an early shed created a supply of new shell lobsters that exceeded demand and depressed value, the shed in 2014 happened later, allowing processors, dealers, and restaurants to handle them more profitably.
“Another significant reason for the improved value for Maine lobster this past year is the effort of Maine’s lobster dealers who worked hard to expand markets for Maine lobster,” said Keliher. “That work will continue as the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative begins working with global marketing powerhouse Weber Shandwick to grow markets for this sustainably harvested Maine seafood.
“Just as important, the Maine lobster industry’s steadfast compliance with conservation laws and regulations has contributed to historic landings for a third year in a row,” said Keliher. “Measures such as size limits and prohibitions on taking egg bearing female lobsters are embraced by industry. That voluntary compliance is the backbone of the Maine lobster fishery’s success.
Carl Wilson, DMR’s marine science bureau director, added that “favorable environmental conditions for growth and reduced predation on small lobsters have allowed the resource to expand dramatically since the late 1980s, and in particular in eastern Maine in the last ten years.”
Among several indicators of resource health tracked by DMR, the settlement index, which tracks the settlement of lobster larvae to the ocean floor and allows scientists to forecast future abundance, shows an improved picture for the future of the resource. Last year “marked a return to near average levels of settlement after three successive years of low settlement, which was a favorable pattern change for the resource,” said Wilson.
The most recent lobster landings data can be found on DMR’swebsite at http://www.maine.gov/dmr/comfish.htm. Preliminary landings data for Maine’s other commercial marine resources will be published in early March.