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May 4, 2022

Maine’s 2021 seafood harvest bests all-time record by over 20%

boats and traps File photo / Laurie Schreiber Maine's seafood industry had a record overall haul of $891 million in 2021.

Buoyed by a historic year for lobster and a rebounding elver fishery, Maine's seafood haul in 2021 reached an all-time high value of $891 million.

According to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the overall value earned by harvesters in 2021 jumped by more than $365 million from 2020 and exceeded the previous overall record of $734 million set in 2016.

"The hard work of Maine fishermen, aquaculturists and dealers once again resulted in tremendous economic benefit for our state," said Gov. Janet Mills.

"On the heels of a global pandemic that has challenged every link in the supply chain, the men and women who harvest, cultivate, process and sell seafood from Maine continue to ensure that the highest quality products find their way to market."

The biggest increase paid to harvesters was in the elver fishery, which saw an increase of $1,306 per pound, from $525 per pound in 2020 to $1,831 per pound in 2021. Preliminary data for 2022 shows that baby eels have fetched an even higher $2,162 per pound, according to the Department of Marine Resources.

Lobster was again by far the most valuable overall commercial fishery at $731 million in landed value during 2021, with a per-pound price of $6.71 at the dock. Lobster harvesters earned $2.50 per pound more in 2021 than in 2020 during the start of the pandemic. The total for 2021 reflects an update from previous reports due to ongoing audits of landings records.

For the second year in a row, soft shell clams were the second-most valuable species, with harvesters pocketing more than $25 million. Maine elver harvesters earned $16.7 million, placing the elver fishery as the state's third-most lucrative in 2021.

Maine-grown oysters were the fourth, with a value of over $10 million and a jump in per-pound price of 12 cents.

Despite a decline in landings of nearly 5 million pounds from the previous year, menhaden, a popular bait for Maine’s lobster industry, earned harvesters $9.5 million, the result of a 65% increase in pricing. The overall value ranked menhaden the fifth-most valuable fishery in 2021.

A 51% increase in per pound value compared to 2020 placed Maine scallops as No. 6 in 2021. Harvesters earned a total of $8.3 million, a jump of more than $1.3 million over the previous year.

"The consistent increase in per pound value is a reflection of strong demand for the products harvested here in Maine’s coastal waters," said Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

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