ROCKPORT — Preliminary landing figures for Maine’s fisheries last year add up to a very good year.
The Department of Marine Resources announced Friday that Maine lobstermen last year landed 119,640,379 pounds worth $484,543,633. Both landings and landed value are substantially higher than they were a year earlier. In 2017, lobster landings were just 111,903,656 valued at $438,256.541. It was the seventh time that Maine lobster landings topped 110 million pounds. As well as the volume growing, the boat price was also up, rising from about $3.92 in 2017 to about $4.05 per pound last year.
As good as the news was, lobster landings were still below their 2016 record level of 132.6 million pounds that brought fishermen almost $541 million including year-end bonus payments by some cooperatives. This year’s landed value does not include bonuses, which are not paid by co-ops until after the New Year.
According to the statement released by DMR shortly before the annual meeting of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association Friday morning at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, the value of Maine’s 2018 commercially harvested marine resources increased by more than $60 million over 2017. For only the third time in history, landings exceeded $600 million. At $637,174,944, the overall value represents the second highest on record, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
“The best seafood in the world comes from Maine,” Gov. Janet T. Mills said in a statement Friday morning. “This industry is the cornerstone of Maine’s coastal economy. The value of this year’s catch reflects the dedication and sacrifices of the men and women who work on the water and those who make sure this quality product gets to market.”
According to data published by NOAA Fisheries, American lobster was the most valuable single species harvested in the United States in 2015, 2016 and 2017, with Maine landings accounting for approximately 80 percent of that value each year.
Despite an elver season shortened because of illegal sales which put the state in jeopardy of exceeding its annual 9,688 pound quota for elvers set by the Atlantic States Fisheries Commission, harvesters pocketed $21,747,190 in 2018. That was an increase of $9.5 million, or 78 percent, over 2017 and ranked the fishery as Maine’s second most valuable.
The record average price of $2,366 per pound that dealers paid for Maine elvers resulted in an overall value that makes 2018’s harvest the third most lucrative in the fishery’s history behind only 2012 and ’13 — years in which there was no elver quota. Harvesters in 2018 were forced to leave a lot of money in the water, faced with evidence of illegal sales to dealers. DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher closed the fishery several weeks early, capping reported landings at 9,191 pounds — 152 pounds less than in 2017 and 497 pounds below the quota.
The value of Atlantic herring placed it third overall at $16,565,907, notwithstanding harvest levels that were 3.6 million pounds lower than 2017.
Softshell clam harvesters earned an additional $514,768 over 2017, thanks to an increase over 2017 of 258,642 pounds harvested. With a value of $12,854,545, the fishery was Maine’s fourth most valuable in 2018.
Sea urchins and scallops ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in value of harvested resources. Harvesters landed 2,041,633 pounds of urchins worth $6,201,621. Scallop harvesters landed 239,428 fewer pounds of scallop meats in 2018 than in 2017. With a decrease of $1.20 per pound in the boat price, the landed value of the fishery declined from 2017 by $3,488,936.