ELLSWORTH — Maine’s commercial fisheries were raking and hauling in the cash in 2021, despite landing the second-lowest catch by weight in 20 years.
The ex-vessel value of commercial landings in 2021 reached a record high of $890,668,873, according to the state Department of Marine Resources. That’s over 20 percent higher than the previous high set in 2016 of $733,691,455. This was driven by the increase in price per pound as fishermen in 2021 harvested far fewer pounds than in 2016. Last year’s landings tallied 211 million pounds compared to 302.9 million pounds in 2016.
Landings dropped in pandemic year 2020, when fishermen landed 206.2 million pounds for a total value of $524.8 million. The overall ex-vessel value shot up more than $365 million the following year even though fishermen only landed roughly 5 million more pounds.
“The consistent increase in per-pound value is a reflection of strong demand for the products harvested here in Maine’s coastal waters,” said DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “This industry has once again proven that dedication to quality pays off, and that the best seafood in the world comes from Maine.”
All but two fisheries with reportable landings saw an increase in the per-pound value in 2021 when compared to 2020, according to DMR. Elver harvesters benefited from the biggest increase. The price per pound rose $1,306, from $525 in 2020 to $1,831 in 2021. The total catch brought in $16,681,103 for harvesters, making it Maine’s third most valuable fishery.
While they commanded premium prices, glass eels represented just 2 percent of the value of all landings. In Maine, lobster is king both by both volume and value. The 2021 lobster catch represented 52 percent of landings by weight and 82 percent — $730.6 million — of the ex-vessel value of all Maine fisheries. The dock price averaged $6.71 per pound. That is $2.50 more per pound than in 2020.
Stonington was once again the top port by ex-vessel value, hauling in $73.27 million in 2021. It was second in pounds landed with 11.91 million pounds, trailing Jonesport, where fishermen landed 12.32 million pounds.
For the second year, soft shell clams were the second most valuable species. Harvesters earned more than $25 million.
Oysters were the fourth most valuable catch at over $10 million. Oyster prices increased 12 cents per pound jump in 2021.
While menhaden landings were down nearly 5 million pounds, the popular bait earned harvesters $9.5 million due to a 65 percent increase in per-pound value. It was the state’s fifth most valuable fishery.
Scallops increased 51 percent in per pound value compared to 2020. Harvesters earned $8.3 million, an increase of more than $1.3 million over the previous year.
“The hard work of Maine fishermen, aquaculturists and dealers once again resulted in tremendous economic benefit for our state,” said Governor Janet Mills. “On the heels of a global pandemic that has challenged every link in the supply chain, the men and women who harvest, cultivate, process and sell seafood from Maine continue to ensure that the highest quality products find their way to market.”
Reports for all species can be found at https://www.maine.gov/dmr/commercial-fishing/landings/index.html.