ELLSWORTH, Maine — The volume of national lobster landings and exports dropped slightly last year, but the strength of the fishery kept several Maine communities among the top nationwide for 2013 commercial fish landings, according to federal officials.
Stonington remained Maine’s top port for overall value of its commercial fish landings, which had an estimated total value of $49 million, according to the Fisheries of the U.S. report for 2013, which was released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Portland remained Maine’s top fishing port for overall volume last year with 62 million pounds of commercial fish landings brought ashore.
American lobster, which is by far the largest fishery in Maine, had a nationwide landings value of $460 million in 2013, ranking the species fifth for value among U.S. fisheries.
Of the 149 million pounds of American lobster caught in the U.S. last year, more than 127 million pounds were brought ashore in Maine, accounting for 85 percent of the nationwide catch. Massachusetts, with the second largest American lobster fishery in the country, landed 15 million pounds in 2013, or a little more than 10 percent of the nationwide total.
Maine’s commercial fish landings value total of $473.8 million for 2013 ranks it third nationwide, behind Alaska and Massachusetts. The total volume of Maine’s 2013 landings, 265 million pounds, ranks it seventh, behind all West Coast states, Louisiana and Virginia.
An increase of nearly $23 million in the value of Maine’s 2013 lobster landings is believed to have helped push Stonington up a notch, from 22nd to 21st, in its ranking among the top ports nationwide for value. The average statewide price that lobster fishermen got for their catch last year was $2.89 per pound, or about 20 cents higher than the prior year.
At 20 million pounds, Stonington ranked 43rd nationwide last year in terms of its total volume of landings for all species. The report does not break down the landings volume or value totals for any port by species.
Portland, which has the largest offshore fleet in the state and a more diverse variety of species on its docks, slipped from a ranking of 21st in volume in 2012 to 23rd last year. Portland saw the value of its landings decline slightly from $33 million in 2012 to $32 million, ranking it 37th in the country for value.
Rockland and Vinalhaven, which both have significant lobster fishing fleets, also made the lists of top ports in the country. Rockland had 35 million pounds of landings for 2013, ranking it 30th nationwide for volume, while Vinalhaven’s landings were worth $31 million, ranking it 38th nationally for value, one spot below Portland.
Nationally, New Bedford, Massachusetts, had the highest value of landings for 2013, thanks to the Atlantic sea scallop fishery, while Dutch Harbor, Alaska — where the popular reality television show “Deadliest Catch” is filmed — ranked second. Three billion pounds of Alaskan pollock were caught in 2013, making it the largest fishery by volume in the country.
The value of sea scallops remained high last year, even though landings were down by nearly 16 million pounds. The nationwide landings value of sea scallops in 2013 was ranked fourth nationwide with a total worth of $467.3 million. According to the NOAA report, the average nationwide price that scallop fishermen earned for their catch last year was $11.42 per pound, which is nearly $1.60 higher than the 2012 average of $9.83.
According to Maine Department of Marine Resources, Maine scallop fishermen harvested more than 424,000 pounds of scallop meat during the 2013 calendar year, which would include part of the 2012-13 winter scallop fishing season and part of the next. The average price Maine scallop fishermen earned for their catch in 2013 was $12.24 per pound, the highest such average ever for the state scallop fishery.
Department of Marine Resources statistics also indicate that, cumulatively, Maine scallop fishermen were paid nearly $5.2 million for their catch last year, which is the highest total statewide landings value for scallops since 1998, when it was $5.68 million.
The NOAA report indicates that the nationwide value of landings of American eels last year was $34.8 million dollars.
What the report does not indicate is that most of the nationwide landings value for that species was generated in Maine, where nearly $33 million worth of baby eels, or elvers, were caught last year. Despite that high value, only 18,000 pounds of the eels were caught in Maine in 2013, which is slightly less than two percent of the nationwide catch total volume of 934,000 pounds.