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September 1, 2017

It's been a dismal season for soft-shell lobsters

Courtesy / Tom Thai, Flickr
Courtesy / Tom Thai, Flickr
Maine's lobster fishery is reporting a dismal season for soft-shell lobsters this summer.

As the soft-shell lobster harvesting season is winding down, lobstermen are saying landings have been dismal.

"I'd say we've caught about half the lobsters [than in recent years]," Stonington lobsterman Tony Bray told Island Advantages.

The Stonington Lobster Co-op reported a 25% to 30% drop in volume compared with 2016.

Lack of lobster might be "reflective of a habitat shift as to where the lobsters are, and a behavior shift as a reaction to the colder water," Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries scientist Carla Guenther told the paper.

Price per pound has also dropped, by about 20%. The Stonington co-op is paying $2.65 per pound, compared with $3.25 this time last year.

In July, David Cousens, a South Thomaston lobsterman and president of the Maine Lobstermen's Association, told the AP, in a report published by the Sun Journal, that one reason the catch has been slow is because the price of bait is high, so fishermen were holding off.

In addition, findings earlier this year of an international monitoring program of American lobsters indicated the number of young lobsters in the Gulf of Maine has been falling. The 2016 update from the American Lobster Settlement Index, an international monitoring program founded in 1989 by University of Maine marine scientist Rick Wahle, noted the decline in baby lobsters has been occurring since 2007, despite an abundance of egg-bearing adult lobsters and record-breaking harvests.

The findings came at a time when New England lobster landings in recent years have been stronger than ever — with 80% of the landings coming from the Maine coast and about three-quarters of the state's overall fishery value coming from lobster.

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