State officials and lobstermen meeting yesterday to discuss trends in the lobster industry reached a troubling conclusion: The convergence of warmer water conditions in the Gulf of Maine, earlier molts for lobsters and the resulting soft-shell prices of below $2 per pound are likely to be long-term problems.
Stakeholders agree if those trends continue, many of Maine's 5,000 licensed commercial lobstermen – as well as the associated dealers, processors and others who depend on the lobster fishery – might be forced to consider other livelihoods, according to the Bangor Daily News. Members of the Maine Department of Marine Resources and lobstermen were unable to agree on a plan to respond to the market trends and improve the sustainability of Maine's lobster industry, which brought in 104.8 million pounds in 2011, a catch the DMR pegged as being worth $334 million. Ideas ranged from reducing the number traps each fisherman can use, to not allowing fishermen to haul gear on Saturdays and improving the handling of soft-shell lobsters to reduce their mortality rate before they go to market.
The DMR's Lobster Advisory Council is expected to discuss the ideas at its next meeting, Aug. 16.