ELLSWORTH, Maine — Perhaps buoyed by the sharp increase in elver prices, the value of Maine’s commercial fishery landings remained the third highest nationwide in 2012, according to federal regulators.
The total amount Maine fishermen earned for their catch for all species in 2012 was $448.5 million, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicated last week in its annual Fisheries of the United States report. Alaska retained its top position with $1.89 billion in commercial fish landings in 2012 and Massachusetts held on to the second spot at $618 million.
A steep increase in the value of Maine’s elver fishery — from $7.6 million in 2011 to $38.7 million last year — and a nearly 22-million-pound increase in the volume of Maine’s lobster landings helped boost the state’s total landings value by $24 million from a $424.6 million total in 2011. The soaring value of Maine’s elver fishery can be attributed to a leap in the prevailing prices elver fishermen got for their catch, from around $250 per pound in March 2011 to more than $2,000 per pound by May 2012.
The average price Maine lobstermen earned for their catch went down from $3.19 per pound two years ago to $2.69 per pound last year, but the volume of the total lobster catch went up, from 104.9 million pounds to 126.7 million pounds over the same time period. The result was a $6 million increase in the value of Maine’s annual lobster landings, from $334 million to $340 million, according to statistics compiled by Maine Department of Marine Resources.
In terms of individual ports, New Bedford, Mass., had $411 million worth of landings last year, making it the top ranked port for landings value nationwide. NOAA said New Bedford’s top ranking was “due mostly to the highly valued sea scallop fishery,” which represented more than 80 percent of the total value of all commercial fish landings in New Bedford.
Dutch Harbor, the Alaskan fishing port featured on the Discovery Channel television series “Deadliest Catch,” had the highest volume of landings last year at 752 million pounds and was ranked second in terms of overall landings value at $214 million.
In Maine, Stonington was ranked 22nd in the country last year with $46 million worth of commercial marine species landed, down from $48 million in 2011, NOAA indicated in the Oct. 30 report. The report does not break down what kinds of species come through each port, but in Stonington the top earner is lobster, as it is along the entire Maine coast. Portland was ranked 32nd and Vinalhaven 38th nationally last year in terms of the total value of their landings.
As for volume, Portland was ranked 21st nationwide, Rockland 27th, Stonington 38th and Jonesport 43rd. Portland, with its small groundfishing fleet, has more diversified landings than any other Maine port.
In terms of species value, sea scallops topped the nationwide list at nearly $560 million, with only $3.2 million worth of the shellfish species caught along Maine’s coast. Various subspecies of salmon had a cumulative dockside value of nearly $490 million while American lobster had a nationwide landings value total of nearly $430 million, roughly 80 percent of which was landed in Maine. Of the nearly 150 million pounds of American lobster that were caught nationwide last year, only 22.8 million pounds were not landed in Maine.