‘change is inevitable and we must be prepared’

2017 lobster landings decreased 16 percent; reduced clam landings due to algae blooms, imports

Posted:  Friday, March 2, 2018 - 10:00am

Maine commercial fishermen once again landed more than a half-billion dollars’ worth of marine resources in 2017, according to the state Department of Marine Resources, in a March 2 press release.

At $569,173,089, the total value stands as the fourth highest ever and marks only the sixth time that Maine harvesters have surpassed $500,000,000.

Lobster landings in 2017 were the sixth highest on record at 110,819,760 pounds, despite declining by 16 percent from 2016.

Value also dropped from $4.08 a pound in 2016 to $3.91 a pound for an overall value of $433,789,855 which still represented the fourth highest landed value for Maine’s iconic fishery. When accounting for bonuses paid to harvesters by 15 of 20 Co-Ops, the overall landed value of lobster was $450,799,283.

According to National Marine Fisheries Service data, American lobster was the species of highest landed value in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016, and Maine’s landings accounted for approximately 80 percent of that landed value in 2016.

Herring, the primary bait source for the lobster industry, again represented the second most valuable commercial fishery at $17,993,786 on the strength of a record per-pound price of twenty-seven cents. Harvesters landed 66,453,073 pounds, most of which was harvested from the in-shore Gulf of Maine area known as Area 1A.

Despite a drop of nearly 4 million pounds landed and a dip of $3.8 million in value, Maine’s softshell clam industry remained the third most valuable commercial fishery at $12,363,328.

“Landings declined in part due to closures associated with harmful algal blooms,” said DMR Public Health Bureau Director Kohl Kanwit, in the release.

The decline in value is due in part to reported increases in supply of softshell clams from outside Maine which affected the demand and value for Maine clams.

Maine elver harvesters enjoyed another season in which their fishery was by far the most valuable on a per pound basis. Harvesters landed 9,343 pounds of the 9,688-pound state quota. At $1,303 a pound, the elver fishery was valued at $12,155,672, the fifth highest per pound and overall value in the history of the fishery.

Maine scallop harvesters landed the most scallops since 1997, bringing ashore 793,544 meat pounds, a nearly 45 percent jump from 2016. At $9,300,111, scallop landings had the highest overall value since 1993.

“Management measures developed in cooperation with industry are definitely yielding good results,” said Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher, in the release.

Cobscook and Whiting/Dennys Bays in zone 3 remained open longer during the 2016-2017 season than in the previous season. Areas in zone 2 also benefited from 2 years of rotational closures leading up to the 2016/2017 season. “Maine’s scallop fishery continues its impressive rebound thanks in large part to harvesters whose compliance with area closures and limits have been critical to the success of this fishery,” said Commissioner Keliher.

“The past year has underscored what I’ve been saying for years now – that change is inevitable and we must be prepared,” said Commissioner Keliher. “This year’s decline in lobster landings is by no means a signal that the sky is falling. But it does highlight the need to make sure our management measures adapt to change. This is true for all fisheries. It is the best way to ensure resilience of our marine resources and opportunity for future generations.”

More landings data can be found on the DMR website.