Stonington again leads state in lobster landings

In 2013, Stonington was once again the busiest and highest earning harbor in the state with landings of 20 million pounds, mostly lobsters and scallops, worth about $49 million, up from $46 million in 2012.  FILE PHOTO

In 2013, Stonington was once again the busiest and highest earning harbor in the state with landings of 20 million pounds, mostly lobsters and scallops, worth about $49 million, up from $46 million in 2012.

STONINGTON — The National Marine Fisheries Service has released its Fisheries of the United States report for 2013 and Maine’s landings were the third highest by value in the nation.

Last year, Maine ports saw landings worth $473.9 million cross the docks. That represents an increase of $25.4 million, or 5.6 percent, over landings in 2012.

Stonington was the top port in the state and among the leading ports in the nation.

The island port landed some 20 million pounds of seafood, primarily lobster and scallops, to make it the 43rd busiest port in terms of volume in the United States. With those landings worth approximately $49 million, Stonington was the 21st ranked port nationally in terms of the value of its landings. In 2012, landings in Stonington came in at $46 million.

Slightly further down this year’s list, Portland ranked 37th nationally with landings of $32 million, down about $1 million from the preceding year. Vinalhaven ranked 38th with landings of $31 million, up 10.7 percent from 2012.

Neither of those ports ranked among the top 50 in the nation in terms landings volume.

Two ports, about as geographically distant as it is possible to be in the United States, stood at the top of the volume and value rankings for the second consecutive year.

With landing of 753 million pounds, about the same as in 2012, Dutch Harbor, Alaska was the nation’s busiest port for the 17th consecutive year. New Bedford, Mass. led the value ranking with landings worth some $379 million, $182 million more than second place Dutch Harbor.

The disparity relates to the price difference for each port’s primary species.

Dutch Harbor fishermen landed mostly pollock with an average, ex-vessel price of about 26 cents per pound. In New Bedford, the primary species was sea scallops with an average boat price of $11.42 per pound, up from $9.83 in 2012.

Last year, U.S. landings of American lobster topped 149.3 million pounds, down about 227,000 pounds, but the landed value of $460.1 million increased 7 percent.

Maine harvesters landed more than 127.2 million pounds of lobster worth more than $368.4 million. Massachusetts, the second largest lobster producer, saw landings of about 15.5 million pounds worth some $61.6 million. The average boat price in 2013 was $3.08, up from $2.87 a year earlier.

The export market continued to play a major part in the lobster fishery, with nearly 109,000 pounds of fresh and frozen lobster shipped outside the country. Canada was the biggest buyer of U.S. lobster, importing some 64.9 million pounds, virtually all live product, worth about $253 million. That was about 3 million pounds less than in 2012, but the higher price pushed up the value by about $225 million. An undetermined portion of those exports were reimported to the United States as either value added or live product.

Italy was the second largest foreign lobster buyer in terms of volume, about7.7 million pounds, but China, buying just under 7 million pounds, paid more: about $54 million compared with $49.9 million.

The NMFS report confirms what everyone in the fishing industry knew intuitively — 2013 was not a good year for finfish harvesters anywhere along the along the Atlantic Seaboard, especially in the Northeast. Name the species and landings were down.

Harvesters landed 5 million pounds of cod worth about $10.5 million. That was a drop of 5.5 million pounds (about 53 percent) and $11.7 million compared with 2012.

Yellowtail flounder landings dropped 2.8 million pounds, haddock landings dropped 4.1 million pounds, and even Atlantic pollock landings fell by nearly 25 percent.

Nationally, 2013 commercial landings within the 50 states totaled some 9.9 billion pounds, including both edible species and “industrial” fish such as menhaden, and increase of 245 million pounds (2.5 percent) from 2012. Finfish accounted for 87 percent of the landings volume but only 47 percent of the value of those landings.

According to NMFS, last year the United States imported more than $33.2 billion worth of edible and industrial fishery products last year. Exports in those categories were valued at $29.1 billion, an increase of $2.1 billion from 2012.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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