PORTLAND, Maine — As far as 2021 goes, it was a banner year for Maine's lobster fishery. According to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the state's lobster industry bounced back in 2021 and set a record $725 million for the total value of lobsters at the docks.
"It's tremendous news for the lobster fishery considering the other news that they face. So having a bright light shine on some good news is a welcome change," DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher said.
Maine's lobster catch was valued at $300 million more than 2020. The state's lobster fishing business dipped in 2020, bringing in around $412 million.
Keliher and leaders with the Maine Lobster Union told NEWS CENTER Maine that the closure of international markers for lobster sales in 2020 forced sellers to create new domestic markets.
When international trade resumed again in 2021, those sales combined with sales to new markets in the United States led to a boom.
"That, coupled with the re-opening of that international markets, created this perfect storm for supply and demand, and it's turned out to be great news for the industry," Keliher said.
The per-pound price of lobster soared in 2021, too, contributing to the record high value. This year's price per pound was $6.71, up more than $2.50 per pound from 2020.
"We all knew it was a record high year. Our price was high, but so were our expenses," Virginia Olsen, liaison with the Maine Lobster Union, said.
Olsen said the cost of things like bait and fuel for fishing vessels rose substantially this year, contributing to the highest costs of lobster.
Regulators said fishers caught about 108 million pounds in 2021, the most since 2018 when more than 121 million pounds of lobster were caught.
Still, the Maine lobster industry is grappling with new whale conservation rules, as well as volatile trade markets and uncertainty caused by warming oceans.
The lobster fishery will have to adopt new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration guidelines by May 1, 2022.
"We're working very hard to make sure they have the gear that they need for these federal regulations that are very onerous," Keliher said.
There was also a nearly 1000 square-mile area in the Gulf of Maine closed to traditional lobster fishing from October to January.