The Journal Gazette
 
 
Sunday, September 27, 2020 1:00 am

Pandemic doesn't slow Maine lobster business

PATRICK WHITTLE | Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine – Maine's lobster fishermen braced for a difficult summer this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but then the unexpected happened. They kept catching lobsters, and people kept buying them.

The pandemic has posed significant challenges for the state's lobster fishery but members of the industry reported a steady catch and reasonable prices at the docks. Prices for consumers and wholesalers were low in the early part of the summer but picked up in August to be about on par with a typical summer.

The Maine lobster industry is in the midst of a multiyear boom, and fishermen have caught more than 100 million pounds for a record nine years in a row.

It's hard to guess whether they'll reach that total again, but summer 2020 hasn't been half bad for a season in which many fishermen expected collapse, said Kristan Porter, president of the Maine Lobstermen's Association.

“Especially early in the season when nothing was open, no restaurants were open. We were thinking it would be a complete disaster,” Porter said. “If it stays like this, we can struggle through and have a season, and then get ready to fish next year.”

Lobster fishermen harvest the seafood species using underwater traps, and the busiest part of the season is the summer. Maine's lobster fishery is by far the largest in the country. Lobsters are also closely tied to tourism in Maine, which also took a hit from the pandemic.

The lobster industry was apparently helped by the fact that many consumers who typically eat lobster in restaurants started buying them retail, said John Sackton, an industry analyst and founder of SeafoodNews.com. The catch might have been less than recent summers, but that kept prices from falling, he said.

Live lobsters were selling in the $8 range in the wholesale market in mid-September, not too far off from recent seasons.

“Even with Maine travel and quarantine restrictions, there was probably heavier tourist usage in Maine than it appeared that there would be,” Sackton said.


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