SOUTHWEST HARBOR— Despite an uncertain market in response to the pandemic, fishermen bringing their catch ashore in Southwest Harbor landed the town a seventh–place spot on the state’s Department of Marine Resources list of top 10 ports by value with a total catch of $11,630,000.
Former Harbormaster Adam Thurston said he had noticed more unfamiliar commercial fishing vessels in the harbor last summer.
“I remember last summer, there were quite a few boats not out of Southwest [Harbor],” he said in a conversation with the Islander on Wednesday. “We get a lot of people coming in now from other towns to sell their catch.”
With a newer lobster buyer in the harbor, fishermen were coming in from the neighboring towns of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert to offload their catch. That sparked a bit of competition from a competing business across the harbor, all to the benefit of the fishermen, Thurston explained.
Despite a year of uncertainty plagued by losses due to the closure of restaurants and other traditional markets, Maine’s commercial fishermen still managed to net $516,796,614 for the 2020 season. The state’s lobster fishery accounted for most of Maine’s overall landed value at $405,983,832. It is only the seventh time in the history of the fishery that the landed value exceeded $400 million. A higher boat price of $4.20 per pound, rather than the $3.76 per pound average over the last 10 years, contributed to the high total. According to the DMR, even at 96 million pounds, the ninth highest volume in the history of the fishery, the overall catch declined by approximately five percent from the 2019 landing number.
“Maine fishermen and seafood dealers weathered one of the most difficult years in memory, but through hard work and an unwavering dedication to quality, they were able to once again provide tremendous value for seafood consumers, and a vital economic foundation for Maine’s coastal communities,” said Maine Governor Janet Mills.
Softshell clam harvesters earned the second highest value of all Maine fishermen in 2020 on the strength of a 6-cent per pound increase in value. Despite 1.2 million fewer pounds landed, harvesters were paid $15,671,473.
Maine scallop fishermen brought ashore an additional 224,874 pounds compared to 2019, ranking the fishery as the third most valuable, despite a 19-cent per pound decrease in value.
Blood worms, used as bait for species like striped bass, were the fourth most valuable fishery at $6,649,864. The value was an increase of $363,773 over the previous year as a result of a $1.34 per pound jump despite a decline in landings of just over 2 percent.
Oysters, cultivated in aquaculture operations, were valued at $5,907,859, which made them the fifth most valuable commercial species in 2020 due to a per-pound increase of 24 cents, notwithstanding a drop in overall value of $987,628.
Despite a decrease in per-pound value of more than $1,500, elvers remained one of the most valuable species harvested in Maine in 2020, with harvesters earning $5,067,521.
“Maine harvesters, dealers and aquaculturists have faced an unmatched year of challenges,” said DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “But I’ve been extraordinarily proud to see how this industry deals with hardship, solves problems and continues to deliver the best seafood in the world.”