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Updated: March 4, 2024

Maine commercial fisheries jump $25M in value, with strong boat price for lobster

boats on water File photo / Laurie Schreiber The boat price for lobster was up, but landings came in at only 93.7 million pounds — the lowest amount for the past five years.

Commercial fishermen in Maine had a strong year in 2023.

The value of the state's fisheries increased by more than $25 million over 2022, for a total of $611.3 million at the dock, according to preliminary data released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

The department attributed much of the increase to a strong boat price for lobster, Maine’s most valuable species last year. The price paid to fishermen went from $3.97 per pound in 2022 to $4.95 per pound in 2023, netting harvesters an additional $72 million compared to the previous year, for a total value in 2023 of $464.4 million.

“The price Maine lobstermen received last year is a reflection of the continued strong demand for this iconic seafood,” said Patrick Keliher, the department’s commissioner. 

However, total lobster landings weighed in at 93.7 million pounds — the lowest amount for the past five years.

That was still positive news compared with 2022, when the value clocked in at $388.6 million, the least value for a Maine lobster catch since 2013.

But last year's value didn't attain the heights of 2021, when the lobster haul was worth a total of $742.2 million.

Elvers, clams

Maine’s elver fishery was the second-most valuable in 2023, earning fishermen $19.5 million on the strength of the species' price, $2,009 per pound.

Maine’s elver harvesters are allowed to net up to 9,688 pounds. The annual quota was set to expire after this season, but an interstate fisheries management body, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, recently voted to reboot the existing quota and is in the process of deciding when the next expiration date will be.

Softshell clam diggers earned $13.9 million, which made the fishery the state’s third-most valuable. 

“DMR’s Nearshore Marine Resources Program, launched in 2022, has been working hard to support this vital fishery through outreach, funding and collaboration with towns to develop effective shellfish management strategies,” said Keliher.  

Maine oysters were the fourth-most valuable harvested product at over $11 million on the strength of a 20-cent-per-pound increase in value.

Menhaden, used as bait for the lobster fishery, was the state’s fifth-most lucrative fishery, with a landed value of more than $10 million.

Maine’s groundfish industry also saw an increase in landings and a more stable price due in part to investments the department made in fuel, ice and landing fee rebate programs at the Portland Fish Exchange and Vessel Services, and in the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, using COVID relief funds from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Vessel Services Inc., at 1 Portland Fish Pier, was founded by fishermen in 1980 and offers ice, fuel, and fishing supplies for the working waterfront.

“These programs, which helped to reduce costs, along with market stability enabled by MCFA's Fishermen Feeding Mainers program, were critical to maintaining and increasing landings of groundfish in Maine,” said Keliher.

“It’s important work and a positive story; fishermen were able to keep working, critical infrastructure has been maintained, and fresh, healthy Maine seafood went to schools and families in need.”

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