Maine lobster fishery to shut down?


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
July 10, 2012

Supply is far outstripping demand for Maine lobster, which is driving down prices to record lows and prompting fishermen to tie up their boats. But the state’s lobster fishery will not be shut down entirely, as some in the industry have recommended.

On Monday, Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher responded to concerns about low ex-vessel prices; currently, fishermen are receiving as little as USD 2.25 per pound for their catch.

“The department will not be closing the lobster fishery,” said Keliher. “Based on the concerns that have been raised by the industry, I have reviewed our statutory authorities and they do not allow us to shut down the fishery for economic reasons.”

He added, “We have heard that fishermen are seeking to impose a de facto shutdown of the fishery and coercing others into complying by threatening to cut off their gear. The state will not tolerate any trap molestation, and any such actions will be met with targeted and swift enforcement or other appropriate action. Harvesters should also be aware that such actions may be in violation of federal antitrust laws.”

Availability of Maine lobster is so high because softshells came in earlier than usual this year. Much of that catch typically goes to Canadian processors, but the harvest in Canada has also been very strong. So softshells have flooded the local market, as they’re not durable enough to handle long-distances deliveries.

That has lead to record low ex-vessel prices, forcing fishermen up and down the Maine coast to idle their vessels.

“The governor and the Department of Marine Resources share industry’s concerns regarding the low price of lobster due to excessive supply, and we are committed to seeking ways to prevent this scenario in the future through appropriate marketing and management strategies,” said Keliher. “I have spoken to many industry members about this issue and will continue to solicit ideas going forward.”

For locals and tourists, the low prices have been a treat. But demand hasn’t been high enough to eat up all the supply.

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