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Maine’s 2014 lobster fishery breaks records again

Big landings, huge value, and improved boat price

HALLOWELL, ME – While it may not have come as a surprise, the timely announcement of record-breaking Maine lobster landings and value for 2014 certainly provided the backdrop for a truly celebratory weekend at this year’s 40th anniversary of the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in early March.

The news was about as good as it gets.

  •   Landings of nearly 124 million pounds, slightly off the all time record high of 127 million pounds set in 2012;
  •   A total value of $456,935,346, the largest ever; and
  •   At $3.69 per pound, a price increase of 79 cents per pound over 2013, the largest single-year increase in per-pound value since Maine Dept. of Marine Resources (DMR) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) began keeping records.

For just the second time, DMR is reporting bonuses received by lobster fishermen 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 DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher.

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,” Keliher said.

“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 10 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 big picture

For the third straight year, Maine’s commercially harvested marine resources increased in overall value and generated over one-half billion dollars for the state’s economy, according to preliminary data released by DMR.

The total value of Maine’s…

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Read the rest of this story and much, much more in the April issue of Commercial Fisheries News.  Buy this issue or Subscribe

(Read online immediately with access key and download for future reference.)

 

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