Maine’s commercial fisheries rank third in value nationwide

A lobster bound for the table at the 65th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland in August 2012.
A lobster bound for the table at the 65th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland in August 2012.
Posted Sept. 23, 2012, at 6:04 p.m.

STONINGTON, Maine — Much has been said about how Maine ranks against the rest of the country when it comes to child well-being, income growth, bike-friendliness and, of course, doing business.

When it comes to the value of its commercial fish landings, however, Maine shoots past most of the others.

Many states aren’t included on the list, which was released last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, because they are not located on the coast or Great Lakes and so have no commercial fisheries to speak of. But of the 30 states that do — most, if not all, of which have more people than Maine — only two rank higher: Alaska and Massachusetts.

Maine, which had commercial fish landings worth $426,500,000 in 2011, ranks third in the country, in large part because of its $334 million lobster fishery.

The value of Alaska’s landings last year was nearly $1.9 billion, much of it generated by the pollock fishery, while in Massachusetts scallops were the single biggest contributor to that state’s $570 million landings value. Immediately behind Maine in the value rankings were, in order, Louisiana, Washington, Texas and California. Value is determined by what fishermen are paid for their catch.

Maine ranked eighth nationwide in terms of volume with 270 million pounds of fish landed in 2011.

The value of Maine’s lobster fishery is the reason Stonington was the top-ranked port in the state for landings value. The Hancock County town was ranked 21st nationally in 2011 with a commercial fisheries landings value of $48 million. Portland was ranked 21st in a separate list that ranked ports nationwide by volume of landings.

Portland, which hosts the state’s largest groundfishing fleet, was ranked 37th for value in the country while Stonington was ranked 39th for volume. Rockland, which like Stonington is a major port for the state’s lobster fleet, also made both top-50 lists, ranking 27th for volume and 46th for value.

According to the NOAA report, 126.3 million pounds of American lobster were caught nationwide in 2011, all of it on the East Coast. In Maine alone, 104 million pounds of lobster were brought ashore by Maine fishermen last year.

The value of Atlantic cod landings increased from $28.1 million in 2010 to $32.6 million last year, but the volume decreased from 17.7 million to 17.6 million pounds., the report indicated. Declining stock estimates for groundfish species such as cod off the Northeast coast led federal officials to declare a fisheries disaster for the region on Sept. 13. But another NOAA report released last week suggests that some species may be relocating to colder waters due to warming ocean temperatures.

The nationwide landings for commercial fishermen added up to 10.1 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2011, the highest total of the past 17 years, according to the NOAA landings report.

The top port in the country last year for volume was Dutch Harbor-Unalaska, where fishermen brought ashore 706 million pounds of fish. For value, New Bedford, Mass., was the top-ranked port, with a total catch worth $369 million.

Americans each ate on average 15 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2011, according to the report, down from the 2010 per-person average of 15.8 pounds. Americans ate more than 4.7 billion pounds of seafood last year, putting the country behind only China for annual seafood consumption.

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

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