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March 6, 2017

2016 proves a record year for Maine's fishing industry

Courtesy / Maine Department of Marine Resources
Courtesy / Maine Department of Marine Resources
Courtesy / Maine Department of Marine Resources

Maine's fishing industry topped $700 million in overall value in 2016, including a dockside value for the lobster fishery of $533 million. Both were records, according to preliminary data released Friday by the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

DMR reported the $721 million total value represented a nearly $100 million increase over 2015.

For the second straight year, the largest single increase in value was in Maine's lobster fishery. The fishery saw the overall landed value jump by more than $30 million — from $501 million in 2015 to $533 million in 2016 — while the average per pound value remained over $4 for the second year in a row, at $4.07. When factoring in bonuses paid to harvesters as reported by 14 of Maine's 19 lobster co-ops, the overall landed value of Maine's lobster fishery reached $547.24 million, DMR reported.

DMR reported that 2016 marked the first year Maine lobster harvesters landed over 130 million pounds, with a total of 130.8 million pounds — the fifth year in a row in which Maine lobster harvesters landed over 120 million pounds.

"The historic landings reflect the hard work of our harvesters to build and sustain this fishery," said DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher. "The exceptional value is the result of growing demand by consumers who appreciate both the quality of Maine lobster and the long-standing commitment to sustainable harvesting practices that characterize this fishery."

How other fisheries fared

At $19 million, Atlantic herring, the primary bait source for Maine's lobster industry, saw an increase in value over 2015 of more than $5 million. The dollar amount ranked it as Maine's second-most-valuable fishery, despite a nearly 11% decline in landings.

"Overall herring landings declined in 2016 as a result of a lack of fish off-shore, resulting in demand that far surpassed supply," Keliher said.

Maine's softshell clam industry dropped from second place in 2015 to third in 2016, with an overall value of $15.66 million. 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 late in the season," said Kohl Kanwit, director of the DMR Bureau of Public Health. While the closure was minimized as much as possible through rigorous testing, many areas were closed for two to four weeks to ensure public health and safety, DMR reported.

Maine's elver fishery was again by-far the most lucrative of Maine's commercial fisheries on a per-pound basis at $1,431 a pound. Maine harvesters netted 9,400 of the 9,688 available pounds of quota for an overall value of $13.44 million, an increase of more than $2 million from the previous year. The overall value ranked the elver fishery as Maine's fourth highest.

"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 Keliher. "The agency and the industry must work to not only safeguard our iconic lobster fishery but also to work together on solutions that ensure the health and resiliency of all Maine fisheries."

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