ROCKPORT, Maine — Thanks to a 20-cent increase in the average price lobstermen received for their catch, the landings value of Maine’s most lucrative commercial fishery jumped by more than $20 million in 2013.
By preliminary estimates, the overall value of Maine’s lobster landings in 2013 was $364.5 million, according to statistics released this week by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. That estimated value is nearly $23 million more than the $341.7 million hauled in by lobstermen in 2012.
The state’s 6,000 or so licensed commercial lobstermen brought ashore nearly 126 million pounds of lobster last year, slightly less than the 127.2 million pounds caught in 2012, according to DMR. The average price lobstermen got for their catch in 2013 was $2.89, up from $2.69 the year before.
Jeff Nichols, spokesman for DMR, said Friday that the 20-cent increase in the average price certainly is helpful, compared to the prior year. But prices of less than $3 per pound are still far below what they were in the mid-2000s, when fishermen averaged more than $4 per pound for four consecutive years. The prices that fishermen pay for bait and diesel fuel remain significantly higher than they were in the late 1990s, when lobstermen could expect to receive around $2.90 per pound.
Nichols said that rather than increasing the volume of the catch, which could adversely affect lobster stocks in the Gulf of Maine, state and industry officials would rather see the price per pound go back up. The goal of the state’s new Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative is to increase market demand, and the price consumers will pay, for the state’s signature seafood.
“It underscores the need for marketing,” Nichols said of the sub-$3 price.
The 2013 respective landings values for elvers and scallops also were exceptionally high compared to the past 10-plus years.
The $32.9 million value for the state’s 2013 elver landings is the second highest annual total ever — behind only the $38.7 million total of the prior year, when the landings volume total was more than 20,000 pounds. Licensed Maine fishermen netted 18,000 pounds of elvers in 2013, earning an average price of $1,821 per pound — nearly $1,000 more per pound than the average price in 2011.
Due to concerns about the numbers of American eels, Maine has agreed to reduce its statewide 2014 elver landings total to 11,749 pounds. DMR plans to impose individual quotas on each fisherman, based on each one’s catch history, to try to spread out the impact of the mandated reduction.
The state’s estimated 2013 scallop landings value, though small compared to elvers and lobster, represents a significant increase over the prior year. Landings last year are valued at nearly $5.2 million — which is $2 million, or nearly 63 percent — higher than 2012’s landings value. The landings volume total of 424,547 pounds is the largest annual catch total since 2000, when it was 658,000 pounds.
The average price scallop fishermen got for their catch last year, $12.24 per pound, is the highest average statewide boat price ever.
Nichols attributed the value of Maine scallops to tough management regulations that have been imposed on the fishery over the past five years. Catch restrictions for scallops have tightened as officials try to protect stocks that have declined steadily since the early 1980s.
“The scallop fishery really is a success story,” Nichols said.