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Maine lobster values jumped in 2013

A 20-cent-a-pound increase in the average price lobstermen received for their catch caused the value of Maine’s most lucrative commercial fishery to jump by more than $20 million in 2013.

By preliminary estimates, the overall value of Maine’s lobster landings in 2013 was $364.5 million, according to statistics released this week by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. That estimated value is nearly $23 million more than the $341.7 million that lobstermen hauled in during 2012, the Bangor Daily News reported.

The state’s 6,000 or so licensed commercial lobstermen brought ashore nearly 126 million pounds of lobster last year, slightly less than the 127.2 million pounds caught in 2012, the newspaper cited the marine resources department as showing. The average price lobstermen got for their catch in 2013 was $2.89 a pound, up from $2.69 the year before.

Department spokesman Jeff Nichols told the paper Friday that the 20-cent increase in the average price certainly is helpful, compared with the prior year.

But prices of less than $3 a pound are still far below what they were in the mid-2000s, when fishermen averaged more than $4 a pound for four consecutive years. The prices that fishermen pay for bait and diesel fuel remain significantly higher than they were in the late 1990s, when lobstermen could expect to receive about $2.90 a pound.

Rather than increase the volume of the catch, which could adversely affect lobster stocks in the Gulf of Maine, state and industry officials would like to see the price per pound go back up. The goal of the state’s new Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative is to increase market demand and the price that consumers will pay for the state’s signature seafood.

“It underscores the need for marketing,” Nichols said of the sub-$3 price.

The 2013 respective landings values for elvers and scallops also were exceptionally high, compared with the past 10-plus years. Tough regulations attributable to dwindling American eel numbers has greatly reduced the elver catch.

Nichols attributed the value of Maine scallops to tough management regulations that have been imposed on the fishery during the past five years. Catch restrictions for scallops have tightened as officials try to protect stocks that have declined steadily since the early 1980s.

The state’s estimated 2013 scallop landings value, though small, compared with elvers and lobster, represents a significant increase from the prior year. Landings last year are valued at nearly $5.2 million — which is $2 million, or nearly 63 percent — higher than 2012’s landings value. The landings volume total of 424,547 pounds is the largest annual catch total since 2000, when it was 658,000 pounds.

The average price that scallop fishermen got for their catch last year, $12.24 a pound, is the highest average statewide boat price ever.

“The scallop fishery really is a success story,” Nichols said.

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