BAR HARBOR — Fishermen have reported catching far fewer lobsters this season than last year’s record-setting numbers. But the scarcity does not seem to have translated into much upward pressure on prices.
While harvesters and dealers hold boat price information close to the vest, unofficial reports indicate that boat prices have actually dropped to $2.50 per pound or worse.
In 2016, lobster hauls in Hancock County totaled about 45 million. That was the biggest landings year since 2004, according to data from the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR).
Matt Jacobson of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) said the recent drop in value shows that the industry “isn’t immune to Mother Nature.”
“As a wild fishery, we experience ebbs and flows,” Jacobson said. “That is precisely why marketing is so valuable to this industry.”
The MLMC was created by the DMR to boost demand and, it was hoped, prices after an early season glut in 2012 dropped prices to around $2 per pound.
Islesford lobsterman Bruce Fernald, part of the Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-Op, said his catch is down about 20 percent this year. He said the only time he has seen a decrease in price more profound than this was in 2012 when lobster was “around $2 a pound.”
“I think many people are in the same boat,” said lead DMR lobster scientist Kathleen Reardon Monday. “I think it’s the same up and down the coast.”
She called the industry “predictably unpredictable.”
Last year, one of the DMR’s population surveys found a record number of smaller lobsters, and those numbers are not expected to change in 2017.
“There are a lot of short lobsters around,” Reardon said. “I was out on a boat today, and there were a lot of them.”
Statewide lobster landings and price
Year Pounds (millions) Price/lb
2010 96.2 $3.31
2011 104.9 $3.19
2012 127.3 $2.69
2013 127.8 $2.90
2014 124.3 $3.70
2015 122.4 $4.09
2016 130.8 $4.07
Source: Maine DMR