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Deer Isle, Isle au Haut and Stonington, Maine.
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by Jessica Brophy
In a January 3 report from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, early calculations of the 2012 lobster landings show an increase of 18 percent in the poundage of lobster landed, while at the same time the value of the total landings decreased by nearly four million dollars.
In 2011, 104 million pounds were landed at a value of $334.7 million, the first year to break 100 million pounds and a 9-percent increase over 2010 landings. In 2012, 123 million pounds were landed at a value of $331 million.
This means more lobster was landed, but it was worth less than in previous years.
Stonington Co-op manager Ronnie Trundy said that seemed to be the trend for the Co-op over 2012. While he has yet to finalize calculations in terms of whether 2012 was more profitable than 2011, he said landings were up substantially.
“We had another record year on poundage,” said Trundy. “We bought more lobster. But we were definitely getting paid a lot less for our lobster.”
For local fisherman Jerry Weed, the amount of lobster he landed made up for the poor boat price. “The landings were up and quantity offset the price,” he said. He said he does worry if the number of lobsters drop, and the boat price stays low, there could be serious problems making a living.
At the same time, Weed—along with many fishermen in the area—is skeptical of potential changes to the industry. “I think it’s a good idea to leave it alone and let mother nature take its course,” said Weed, referencing a series of DMR meetings taking place up and down the coast this month (see Lobster Licensing, p. 2). These meetings are meant to discuss possible changes to the licensing system, as well as possible measures to address the low boat price crisis of the summer of 2012.
“I’m all for protecting the resource,” said Weed of potential rules changes. “But we don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot.”
Part of the problem of the 2012 low boat prices is visible in the month-by-month landings numbers. Traditionally, landings peak in August, with continued high landings in September. In 2012, landings peaked early, in July, with June numbers also elevated. The high landings numbers continued well into the fall, with higher-than-usual numbers for October and November.
Individual port data won’t be available until the end of February, according to DMR Marine Resource Scientist Heidi Bray. “The numbers are so preliminary at this time and are changing daily as reports are submitted,” said Bray. “If a dealer in a particular port is delinquent in reporting, the landings for that port would be greatly skewed.”
For the past several years, Stonington has been the top port for lobster landings in the state. Last year, Stonington landed nearly 15 million pounds of lobsters, representing $46 million dollars of value. Stonington belongs to Zone C, which landed 32.5 million pounds of lobster in 2012.