ROCKLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- This is peak season for eating Maine lobster. The proof is in the pots, or the cookers, at the 70th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland. Crowds eagerly gobbled up plates of hot lobster ton Thursday, and many went back for seconds.
Ellen Robinson came to Maine from Tennessee, and said her goal was, “to eat lobster as much as I can hold, which I’m doing, and I will eat more.”
The lobster industry likes to hear those comments, as they show there are plenty of customers waiting for what Maine fishermen catch. The industry has seen record catches and income in recent years. But researchers have said there appear to be fewer small, juvenile lobsters growing on the bottom of the inshore areas of the Gulf of Maine.
That has raised concerns about the possibility of declining catches in the future. So this week, regional fisheries managers said they want to review lobster conservation efforts in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank. Those two areas are now considered by researchers and regulators to be one lobster population.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has decided to study the conservation efforts in the three states of the Gulf to determine what works best, and whether any changes are needed to keep the population healthy.
Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, said her group welcomes the review.
“The entire Maine coast is dependent upon a healthy lobster resources,” McCarron said, “so it really does make sense for the health of the lobster stock and the fishing communities that we proactively look at what we have in place.”
Maine Marine resources Commissioner Pat Keliher, who is a member of the ASMFC lobster board, said conservation regulations such as V-notching of egg bearing female lobsters, and lobster size limits, can vary from state to state. He said the review will determine if any of those measures should be changed, and if there should be common measures in all states.
Maine lobster is labeled as a sustainably harvested seafood, and the industry says that’s because of Maine’s long history of conservation measures.
Keliher said the study could take more than a year.
“This is just the beginning of this process,” he said, adding that “we will be working closely with industry to develop those options and advocate for the best outcome for the long term sustainability of Maine’s lobster industry.”
Any changes in conservation, he said, would be done with the intent of “having more lobsters on the bottom”.