2017 Lobster Landings Show Differences Among Zones

According to data from the Department of Marine Resources (DMR), lobster landings in Maine dropped by slightly more than 15% last year, from nearly 131 million pounds in 2016 to 111 million pounds in 2017. Statewide, the boat value fell 18.6%, from about $533 million in 2016 to just under $434 million in 2017. The decline means 20 million fewer pounds of lobster was landed last year than in 2016.

The drop, however, was not spread equally along the coast. As the lobster population continues to shift eastward, lobstermen in the Downeast lobster zones saw strong landings last year, while those in the midcoast area experienced a modest decline. As DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher said in an interview with the Portland Press Herald at the close of the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in March, when the preliminary landing figures were released, “One year of decline does not make a trend. The way I look at it, we were down 16 percent compared to the highest year on record. It was still the seventh year we landed over 100 million pounds, the sixth highest on record and the fourth highest in value. That’s pretty damn good.”

Lobster zones A, C and D comprise the majority of the state’s lobster landings, at 22%, 25%, and 19% respectively. Zone B lobstermen brought in 14% of the lobster while zones E, F, and G landed 19% of the 2017 total.

Zone C lobstermen harvested the greatest number of pounds (27,679,499) while zone A came in second, at 24,613,396 pounds. By comparison, zone E lobstermen caught slightly more than 6 million pounds and zone G lobstermen caught a bit more than 4 million pounds.

The price paid to lobstermen in 2017 did not reflect the drop in volume, however. The average boat price of lobster fell from $4.08 per pound in 2016 to $3.91 per pound in 2017. This caused confusion among lobstermen, since in 2016, when landings topped 131 million pounds, the boat price remained high, at an average of $4.07 per pound. Some credit the decline in boat price to the inventory of 2016 live and frozen processed lobster held by Canadian firms. Others point to the Canadian-European Union Free Trade Agreement that came into force in September, 2017, which immediately removed the 8% tariff on live Canadian lobster. Enormous harvests of crab and shrimp throughout the world also suppressed lobster prices globally.