PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s lobster catch is well behind last year’s pace, with only weeks left in the season, the state’s head of fisheries said on Monday.
Fishermen had brought less than 50 million pounds of lobster to the docks of Maine by the end of September, The Portland Press Herald reported . That’s 40% less than the total for 2018 for the same time period, and nearly 40% off the five-year average.
Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Pat Keliher said Monday some of the dropoff could be attributed to lobsters shedding their shells late in the year. The lobster catch typically picks up when many lobsters lose their old shells and reach legal size.
Maine is by far the most productive lobster fishing state in the country, and the catch has been high for several straight years. The total catch was nearly 120 million pounds last year, and the catch has been more than 100 million pounds in every year since 2011.
The lobster industry is critical to Maine’s economic health, and it’s facing numerous challenges at the moment. Trade hostilities with China have cost the U.S. a major trade partner for the seafood. The Gulf of Maine is also warming faster than most of the world’s oceans, and that could have an impact on lobster catch.
The industry’s also facing new restrictions designed to protect endangered right whales.