Maine’s 2016 Lobster Fishery Sets Records
On a per-pound basis, elver fishery the most lucrative —
Thursday, March 09, 2017 12:44 PM
Maine’s commercially harvested marine resources topped $700 million in overall value in 2016, according to preliminary data from the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The total reflects an all-time high and an increase of nearly $100 million in value over 2015.
The “Quick Guide to Stock Status” these charts are from ASMFC’s 2016 annual report.
American Lobster Fishery: A Tale of Two Stocks
According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commisison 2016 Annual Report that was just released at the beginning of the month, the American lobster fishery continues to be a tale of two stocks — with record high abundance and recruitment in the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank (GOM/GBK) and record low abundance in Southern New England (SNE).
While the GOM/GBK stock is experiencing record high landings and abundance, the SNE stock is experiencing recruitment failure, with pronounced population declines in the inshore portion of the stock. According to the annual report, there are several contributors to the poor condition of the SNE stock, including increased natural mortality and continued fishing pressure. Climate change has had a marked impact on the SNE stock, as warming water temperatures have negatively impacted larval settlement and recruitment. In contrast, the GOM/GBK stock is currently experiencing optimal temperatures (12 to 18°C), which support high stock abundance.
While the 2015 stock assessment found the GOM/GBK stock to be at record high abundance, the assessment did show declines in the settlement of young-of-year lobsters, and that could be a sign of poor recruitment in the future.
For the second straight year, the largest single increase in value was in Maine’s lobster fishery. The fishery saw the overall landed value jump by more than $30 million, while the average per pound value remained over $4 for the second year in a row, at $4.07.
The overall value of Maine’s lobster fishery was again by far the highest, at $533,094,366. When factoring in bonuses paid to harvesters as reported by 14 of Maine’s 19 lobster co-ops, the overall landed value of Maine’s lobster fishery reached $547,249,010.
Last year marked the first year ever that Maine lobster harvesters landed over 130 million pounds, with a total of 130,844,773 pounds. It was also the fifth year in a row in which Maine lobster harvesters landed over 120 million pounds.
“The historic landings reflect the hard work of our harvesters to build and sustain this fishery,” said Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher in a news release. “The exceptional value is the result of growing demand by consumers who appreciate both the quality of Maine lobster and the long-standing commitment to sustainable harvesting practices that characterize this fishery.”
At $19,019,337, Atlantic herring, the primary bait source for Maine’s lobster industry, saw an increase in value over 2015 of more than $5 million. The dollar amount ranked it as Maine’s second most valuable fishery, despite a nearly 11 percent decline in landings. “Overall herring landings declined in 2016 as a result of a lack of fish offshore, resulting in demand that far surpassed supply,” said Commissioner Keliher.
Maine’s softshell clam industry dropped from second place in 2015 to third in 2016, with an overall value of $15,656,386. The decline in overall value reflected a 13.4-percent decline in per-pound value as well as a 20-percent decline in pounds landed.
“One significant factor that contributed to the decline in softshell clam landings was a closure of harvest areas between the Canadian border and Mount Desert Island associated with Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) late in the season,” said Kohl Kanwit, director of the DMR Bureau of Public Health. Many areas were closed for two to four weeks to ensure public health and safety.
Maine’s elver fishery was again, by far, the most lucrative of Maine’s commercial fisheries on a per-pound basis, at $1,430.51 a pound. Maine harvesters netted 9,400 of the 9,688 available pounds of quota for an overall value of $13,446,828, an increase of more than $2 million from the previous year. The overall value ranked the elver fishery as Maine’s fourth highest.
“While we can take this moment to celebrate the great value of Maine’s marine resources, we cannot lose site of the signs of change,” said Keliher. “The agency and the industry must work to not only safeguard our iconic lobster fishery but also to work together on solutions that ensure the health and resiliency of all Maine fisheries.”
More landings data can be found at www.maine.gov/dmr/commercial-fishing/.