PORTLAND, Maine — The lobster population is at an all-time high off the Maine coast but is faring poorly in southern New England, according to a new report.
The stock assessment mirrors what lobstermen have seen in recent years: strong and steady harvests in Maine and declining harvests in the waters south of Massachusetts.
Lobstermen are thankful that the resource is strong, especially as they struggle with depressed prices for their catch and regulations requiring them to buy new rope to protect endangered right whales, said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.
“The stock is very healthy, and I think everybody recognizes that,” she said.
The new report was unveiled this week in Arlington, Va., at the spring meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which coordinates fishery management plans in the Northeast. It was compiled by an ASMFC panel of lobster experts from states and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
According to the report, there is a record-high abundance of lobsters and strong rates of replenishment in most of the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank based on data going back 26 years. But there is low abundance and poor replenishment in southern New England and Massachusetts Bay.
Although the lobster population is strong in the Gulf of Maine, the report cautioned that lobstermen won’t be able to fish as many traps as they now do should the lobster population and replenishment go into decline.
The assessment reports are put out roughly every five years, with the last assessment in 2005, said ASMFC spokeswoman Tina Berger.
Maine accounts for about 80 percent of the landings of American lobster. Lobstermen have suffered under prices that fell last year to levels not seen since the 1980s.