PORTLAND, Maine (Reuters) - By all rights, lobsterman Steve Train should be the envy of commercial fishermen around the world.
Lobster populations in Maine are booming like never before. Tourists readily dole out $15 or more for lobster rolls, those delectable morsels of seafood on a bun. And environmentalists have praised the harvest as a rare example of sustainability in a sea of overfishing.
Enter market forces. Last year's record haul of 126 million pounds (57 million kg), double that of just a decade ago, led some to wonder whether lobster might go the way of cheap, everyday foods like the chicken nugget or TV dinner. Prices paid to lobstermen at the dock plummeted and have not recovered. They are barely enough, says Train, to cover fuel and bait.
"It's hard to make a business plan the way things are going," said the 46-year-old lobsterman, who has fished the island-studded waters of Casco Bay since he was a teenager.
Even as many of the world's fisheries have floundered, the Maine lobster harvest, recently certified as sustainable by the nonprofit Marine Stewardship Council, has reached epic proportions, but success is relative.
"I'm sure the corn farmer, or the wheat farmer, or chicken farmers all felt the same way at some point," said Pete Daley, a manager at Garbo Lobster Co in Hancock, Maine, one of the country's largest distributors. "People say, 'I'm not getting the price I used to get, or the price I deserve.' But what we're seeing here is an industry that's evolving."
National Fisherman Live: 9/9/14
In this episode:
Seafood Watch upgrades status of 21 fish species
Calif. bill attacking seafood mislabeling approved
Ballot item would protect Bristol Bay salmon
NOAA closes cod, yellowtail fishing areas
Pacific panel halves young bluefin harvest
National Fisherman Live: 8/26/14
In this episode, National Fisherman Publisher Jerry Fraser talks about his early days dragging for redfish on the Vandal.
More than a dozen higher education institutions and federal and local fishery management agencies and organizations in American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Hawaii have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at building the capacity of the U.S. Pacific Island territories to manage their fisheries and fishery-related resources.