Maine fishermen marked a pair of pocket-lining milestones last year: The lobster fishery had its most valuable year yet, and so did Maine’s commercial fisheries in their entirety.
Fishermen hauled in nearly $457 million worth of lobster, an all-time high. All together, Maine’s fisheries were worth $585.3 million last year, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
Of course, those two figures are closely linked, which is the crux of yet another fisheries-related milestone for Maine — a worrisome one: The state hit an all-time high last year in terms of the lobster’s share of Maine’s fisheries value. The lobster accounted for 78.1 percent of it. That’s a jump from the 2013 figure of 68.5 percent.
Maine is in the midst of a lobster boom. But Maine’s dependence on the lobster, almost to the exclusion of other species that used to deliver significant value, is cause for concern in the same way as a small town’s heavy dependence on a paper mill for employment and economic activity.
“When you look at the pie, it is so large with respect to the value of the lobster fishery, so if something happens to that fishery, I don’t know where we go,” said Brian Beal, a professor of marine ecology at the University of Maine at Machias and a former lobsterman.
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