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Maine's Lobster Harvest Drops, But Strong Prices Boost Overall Value

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Lobsterman Bill Matthews hauls in a trap while fishing off Cape Porpoise, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Maine’s lobster harvest fell off again last year, but landings data for all of the state’s commercial fisheries show that dollar-for-dollar, 2019 was the second most successful year ever.Figures released by the state’s Department of Marine Resources Friday morning show that, by weight, Maine’s lobster harvest dropped by 17 percent from the previous year. That continued a recent downward trend that’s emerged since the record hauls of the mid-2010s.

But the lobster fleet still brought in more than 100 million pounds, and prices at the dock last year were strong enough to pay lobstermen more than $485 million. That was the fourth most valuable recorded, according to DMR.

Lobstermen say a cold spring delayed the catch of molting lobsters known as “shedders." But late-year abundance, coupled with robust prices, helped to save the season. 

Other fisheries boosted 2019’s totals, including bigger harvests of clams and oysters, and an elver fishery that fetched more than $2,000 a pound.

Overall, Maine’s fishing fleet and aquaculture farms brought in almost $674 million worth of salt-water produce last year.

DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher says while the 2019 results were positive, Maine’s marine economies face daunting challenges, including the effects of climate change,  pending federal whale-protection rules, and restricted access to the working waterfront.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.