ELLSWORTH, Maine — State officials have scheduled a series of meetings next month along the coast to hear suggestions from fishermen about the future of Maine’s lobster fishery.

The lobster fishery, which last year resulted in a cumulative total of $334 million in direct revenue to commercial lobstermen in Maine, has benefited from consistently increasing catches during the past 20-plus years but also has had to contend with sluggish prices since 2008.

This past summer, an unseasonal glut of soft-shell lobsters caused the price that fishermen were paid for their catch to plummet below $2 per pound. The last time the per-pound price averaged less than $2 for any given year was in 1980.

In a report released last month, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute recommended:

  1. The establishment of a tiered licensing system in Maine to help ensure the lobster fishery’s long-term sustainability.
  2. Consideration of different measures for reducing waiting periods to get into the fishery, and;
  3. Development of a fishery management plan that establishes “clear goals” for the fishery.

The report is the end result of a project ordered by the state Legislature to evaluate the state’s limited entry licensing system.

These recommendations, and ecological and market changes affecting the fishery, will be the subject of 16 meetings scheduled between Jan. 2 and Jan. 31, 2013.

“[This] has been quite a year for the lobster fishery,” Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said in a prepared statement about the meetings. “Record high landings, low boat prices, Canadian processing constraints, and discussions about changing the state’s lobster marketing strategy have created both challenges and opportunities.”

Keliher said DMR plans to collect information at the meetings that it can then pass along to the Legislature early next year.

The meetings are scheduled for:

  1. Wednesday, Jan. 2, in Boothbay Harbor.
  2. Thursday, Jan. 3, in Jonesport and Machias.
  3. Friday, Jan. 4, in Gouldsboro.
  4. Monday, Jan. 7, in Friendship and Tenants Harbor.
  5. Wednesday, Jan. 9, in Swans Island and Northeast Harbor.
  6. Monday, Jan. 14, in Yarmouth.
  7. Wednesday, Jan. 16, in Bucksport.
  8. Thursday, Jan. 17, in Vinalhaven.
  9. Wednesday, Jan. 23, in Scarborough and Bath.
  10. Monday, Jan. 28, in Bristol.
  11. Thursday, Jan. 31, in York.

A full list of meeting times, some of which are in the morning, and locations can be found on the DMR website at www.maine.gov/dmr or by calling DMR staff at 624-6596.

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....