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another good year for maine lobstermen

Demand for lobster is up

The strong price for Maine lobster reflects a continued increase in demand for Maine lobster. In 2016, Maine lobster held steady on price despite an increase in supply. There continues to be an increase in demand from Asian consumers. In 2010, Maine sold just $100,000 worth of live lobster to China. In 2016, that figure increased to more than $27.5 million. The jump in export value in 2016 was dramatic — slightly more than $10.2 million of lobster was sold in 2015.

In addition, China lowered its tariff on seafood imports in January. The country’s tariff on lobster fell from 15% to 10%. “Any reductions in the cost of doing business, like tariffs lowering, is always helpful,” Jeffrey Bennett, senior trade specialist at the Maine International Trade Center, said in a recent interview in the Portland Press Herald. “But probably more important is the market and demand. It’s still a good market in China.”

But a growing appetite for Maine lobster in this country is also having a significant positive influence on the market, explained Matt Jacobson, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative. “China and other overseas markets are important, but they only make up a small portion of the demand for Maine lobster,” he noted. “Where we see great potential is continuing to drive demand at home, focusing efforts on key culinary markets that are still unfamiliar with the product we harvest.”

Other species

The value of all Maine’s commercially harvested marine resources increased by $100 million in 2016, to slightly more than $700 million. Lobster comprised 73.9% of that figure.

Atlantic herring also jumped in value, in part due to demand for the bait fish by lobstermen at a time when herring were in short supply last year. Landings dipped by nearly 11% while value increased by more than $5 million, hitting $19,019,337.

Maine’s softshell clam industry dropped from second place in 2015 to third in 2016 with an overall value of $15,656,386. The decline in overall value reflected a 13.4% decline in per pound value as well as a 20% decline in pounds landed.

“One significant factor that contributed to the decline in softshell clam landings was a closure of harvest areas between the Canadian border and Mount Desert Island associated with Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) late in the season,” said Kohl Kanwit DMR Bureau of Public Health director.

Maine’s elvers once again commanded a top price during the brief spring fishery. Elvers were valued at $1,430 per pound. In 2016, elver fishermen caught 9,400 pounds of the 9,688 pound quota, for a total value of $13,446,828, an increase of more than $2 million from the previous year.

“While we can take this moment to celebrate the great value of Maine’s marine resources, we cannot lose sight of the signs of change,” said Commissioner Keliher. “The agency and the industry must not only work to safeguard our iconic lobster fishery but also work together on solutions that ensure the health and resiliency of all Maine fisheries.”

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