The lobster is in its boom years on the Maine coast, and no one knows precisely why, scientifically speaking, or how long the boom will last.
Maine lobstermen had a record year in 2014, hauling in $456.9 million worth of the popular crustacean. While the actual amount of lobster landed was slightly below 2013 totals — 123.7 million pounds in 2014, down from 127.8 million a year earlier — the value of the catch shot up 23 percent.
Throughout the history of Maine’s lobster fishery, the total catch has never been as high as it has been over the past five years. In the 1960s, the annual catch hovered around 20 million pounds, according to the Department of Marine Resources. It wasn’t until 1991 when the fishery cracked the 30 million-pound mark. It cracked 40 million in 1997, then 50 million in 1999. In 2002, lobstermen hauled in 63.6 million pounds, and that high mark is only about half what today’s lobstermen catch.
“The lobster industry is an enigma,” said Brian Beal, a professor of marine ecology at the University of Maine at Machias and a former lobsterman. “It’s an enigma biologically, and it’s an enigma historically.”
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