Lobster landings set new record

HALLOWELL — For the third year in a row and only the third time ever, Maine lobster fishermen landed more than 120 million pounds in 2014.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) announced last week that the catch had a record overall value of $456,935,346, according to preliminary landings data reported by the DMR.

At an average price of $3.69 per pound, the 123,676,100 pounds landed represented an improvement of 79 cents per pound over 2013. It was the largest one year increase in per-pound value since the DMR and National Marine Fisheries Service began keeping records. The one-year increase in overall value was also the largest on record. At $86,653,573 it was more than the total value of the fishery 21 years earlier.

Bonuses received by lobster harvesters for the year top more than $7.5 million with just over half of Maine’s co-ops reporting. Added to the overall landed value, the bonus figure brings the total to more than $464 million.

“During the 2014 season, we saw a perfect mix of conditions for economic improvement in the Maine lobster fishery,” said DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “Not only were landings at an historic high again, a more predictably timed shed improved industry’s ability to manage the supply.”

Unlike the 2012 season when an early shed created a supply of new shell lobsters that exceeded demand and depressed value, the shed in 2014 happened later, allowing processors, dealers and restaurants to handle them more profitably.

“Another significant reason for the improved value for Maine lobster this past year is the effort of Maine’s lobster dealers, who worked hard to expand markets,” said Keliher. “That work will continue as the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative begins working with global marketing powerhouse Weber Shandwick.

“Just as important, the Maine lobster industry’s steadfast compliance with conservation laws and regulations has contributed to historic landings. Measures such as size limits and prohibitions on taking egg-bearing female lobsters are embraced by industry. That voluntary compliance is the backbone of the Maine lobster fishery’s success.”

Among the indicators of resource health tracked by the DMR, the Settlement Index, which tracks the settlement of lobster larvae to the ocean floor and allows scientists to forecast future abundance, shows an improved picture for the future.

“2014 marked a return to near average levels of settlement after three successive years of low settlement, which was a favorable pattern change for the resource,” said DMR Marine Science Bureau Director Carl Wilson. He also cited favorable environmental conditions for growth and reduced predation on small lobsters, allowing the resource to expand dramatically, particularly in Eastern Maine.

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