BUCKSPORT — No one in the lobster industry wants to see a repeat of events last summer when fishermen landed 5 million pounds of lobsters, most of them shedders, in four weeks, glutted the market and drove the year’s prices to their lowest level in decades.
Despite dissatisfaction with last year’s price, not many of the 50 or so fishermen who met with Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Commissioner Patrick Keliher and agency staff in Bucksport last Wednesday voiced support for a proposal to let the commissioner temporarily cut the fishing week to three days or increase the minimum measure for legal-size lobsters — the “gauge” — to limit landings and prevent a repeat of last year’s market fiasco.
The problem began last June, Keliher said, when he began hearing from dealers asking to find some way to slow unusually early and heavy landings of shedder lobsters. By July, the boat price had dropped below $2 and Keliher began getting calls from lobstermen asking him to intervene.
At the time, Canadian processors were still buying from Canadian fishermen had didn’t have the capacity to handle Maine lobsters. Keliher said he had neither the authority, nor the inclination, to get involved in the lobster market.
The problem “was all caused by the early shed,” Keliher said last week. With every indication that waters in the Gulf of Maine are warming, he continued, “That may be going to be a new normal.”