Lobster boat (Flickr)

ME - A year after record-breaking catch, value of Maine lobster landings are lowest in a decade

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine lobstermen hauled in the least valuable lobster catch in a decade last year, when a decrease in price per pound and higher operational costs gave them less incentive to get out on the water.

The $389 million haul, a 47% drop from 2021’s record-shattering catch, was the result of both fewer pounds of lobster caught and a lower market price, according to data released Friday by the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

The size of the haul — 98 million pounds — was nearly identical to the 10-year low hit in 2020, when lobstermen also scaled back operations, then because of the closure of traditional markets as a result of the pandemic.

The following year, prices jumped to an all-time high of $6.71 per pound, attributed to pent-up demand of customers with money to spend, which led to more fishing and a larger haul — 108 million pounds. The state of the economy last year had the reverse effect, industry insiders say, bringing the price of lobster down to $3.97 per pound, a five-year low.

Kristan Porter, a lobsterman from Cutler and president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, laid the blame for the drop in price per pound squarely on the economy.

“In 2021, coming out of the pandemic, people had money to spend. They were out and about, buying lobster. Things were good,” he said. “Then last year, inflation hit, the economy not as great. People were spending more money on groceries and to fill up their car. They weren’t doing the extras, so demand (for lobster) was low.”

And when demand drops, so does the price.

Annie Tselikis, director of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association, concurred.

“In 2021 seafood prices across America reached an all-time high, and lobster was no exception,” she said in an email. “Emerging from the pandemic, consumers were looking for ways to celebrate, and they chose luxury seafood items as part of that experience. Fast-forward to 2022 and consumers had started to balk on the price of lobster and other high-ticket food items.

“Some restaurants chose to take lobster off of the menu or adjust their menu planning to use lobster as an ingredient rather than a featured item at the center of the plate, reducing their usage rates and demand. Market prices declined in lock-step with the decline in demand.”

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