Local lobstermen see leap in income

By Stephen Betts | Feb 18, 2011

The price of Maine's most valuable seafood helped to sharply boost the income of lobstermen during 2010, according to preliminary figures released Feb. 18 by the state and federal governments.

And the news was good statewide with the Maine Department of Marine Resources and National Marine Fisheries Service reporting that the amount of lobsters landed along the coast from Kittery to Eastport was the most on record.

But one local lobstermen said the news was not all good, and many people he knows, including himself, did not see an increase.

For Knox County, lobstermen landed 24.6 million pounds of the crustaceans in 2010 and were paid $79.9 million, according to the state and federal statistics. The pounds of lobsters landed in Knox County were up from 23.4 million in 2009 but because of a higher per-pound price, the local harvesters earned an additional $13.5 million — a 20 percent increase.

The $79.9 million in income for Knox lobstermen was the most since 2007 when they earned $83.3 million. The most came in 2006 when they were paid $92 million for their catch.

Dan Miller, a Tenants Harbor lobsterman, said he is aware of how strong a season it was for people in Stonington and east, but in Knox County most people either saw the same income or earned less in 2010.

In addition, expenses have risen, Miller noted. He said the cost of bait increased a lot last year and fuel prices rose slowly but constantly.

Miller said this year, he is concerned about the impact of rising diesel fuel prices.

"With the turmoil in the Mideast, who knows where fuel prices will stop," he said. "People will be paying more for fuel and may not want to pay to eat lobsters."

Statewide, lobstermen hauled in 93.4 million pounds worth nearly $309 million. The government agencies said the pounds landed was the most since the agencies began keeping records. The state records go back to 1950 while mandatory reporting for dealers began in 2004.

The records also showed that the 2010 Maine catch came from 4,260 active commercial lobster harvesters.

Knox County lost its ranking as the county in Maine with the greatest landings and most value. Hancock County was tops with its 31.2 million pounds valued at $103.2 million.

Lobsters accounted for 69 cents of every seafood dollar landed in Maine during 2010. The total value statewide of seafood landed was $449 million with lobsters accounting for $309 million of that income.

In Knox County, there were 51.3 million pounds of all seafood landed for a value of $86.4 million.

The seafood with the second greatest revenue for harvesters throughout Maine was shrimp with a value of $13.4 million for the 12.3 million pounds landed.

Soft-shelled clams came in third with a value of $11.7 million for the 9.3 million pounds dug by Maine clammers.

And in fourth came worms, which had a value of $7 million for the 835,000 pounds collected.

Groundfish were fifth at $5 million for the 4 million pounds caught in 2010.

Other highly valued seafood in Maine for 2010, based on the preliminary catch information by the government, were sea urchins at $4.5 million, mussels at $2.1 million, quahogs at $1.9 million, oysters at $1.8 million, scallops at $1.5 million, and crabs at $1.1 million.

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