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Despite 16% drop in 2019, lobster fisheries say the numbers still beat expectations

100 million pounds of lobster was hauled in this year, down 20 million from 2018, but overall the numbers show a strong decade for lobstermen.

MAINE, USA — Maine lobstermen hauled in 100 million pounds of the state’s signature crustacean, top fishery officials say, which is down 16 from last year’s 119 million pounds. But, the dip in harvest was probably not as dramatic as initially feared.

The 100 million pound haul would be a drop of nearly 20 million pounds from last year, but still a much higher number than the industry was used to in the 1990s and 2000. The season initially looked like it could produce a substantial drop in catch.

Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, told Maine Public’s “Maine Calling” radio show that fishermen “made up a lot of ground” following a slow start to the season. 

Jeff Nichols, communications director for the Department of Marine Resources, emphasized previous statements made Keliher, saying, "We don’t think the sky is falling, there was just a delay this year."

The reason for the decline this year could be a number of things, Nichols said, including a later than normal molt and the price and availability of bait. 

Nichols said the colder water temperatures seemed to delay the biological molting process, which usually happens between June and October. That, combined with the cost and availability of herring, due to quota reductions, lead to the slow start and landing decline.

"It's also unpredictable as to how much [herring] will show up [in Maine waters]," Nichols said. 

According to the Portland Press Herald, the 2019 harvest would be the lowest since 2010, when fisherman brought in 96.2 million pounds. The peak harvest of the past decade was in 2016, with 132.6 million pounds.

The Press Herald said that since 2018, “Keliher and others have been warning fishermen that the industry should not bank on sustaining such record-breaking landings, and warned that what went up would undoubtedly have to come down.”

"We’re hopeful for 2020," Nichols said, "but it’s obviously way too early to tell."

Final landing reports will be reported in March.

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