March 6, 2013

Maine lobstermen seek to claw into new markets

By North Cairn ncairn@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

20130305_Shedders
click image to enlarge

Alex Todd is pretty happy with last year's lobster catch and the earlier season for shedders as he takes a break from dragging for scallops around the waters of Bailey Island and stops at Cooks Wharf in Bailey Island.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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It's too early to know for sure whether the soft-shell lobsters that have been sighted in the Gulf of Maine are part of a normal cycle in which a small percentage of the population molts early, according to marine scientists and shellfish monitors.

"We did get some shedders, just a few," said Alex Todd, a fisherman from Chebeague Island, about his recent trips. "That's not that uncommon in the last three or four years,"

Ordinarily, soft-shell lobsters come in the greatest numbers in early summer, with the big take in July, said Wahle.

Soft-shells in the winter and an early start of the lobstering season don't necessarily mean rough waters ahead. Instead, it's the combination of factors -- more lobsters, fewer predators like cod and flounder, warming waters because of climate change -- that stirs up the worries about money and secure livelihoods.

The average price of $2.69 per pound for 2012 was Maine's lowest on record since 1994, according to Department of Marine Resources reports.

By comparison, 2011 landings were 20 million pounds less at nearly 105 million pounds. The value of that smaller catch was $3.19 a pound and close to $335 million -- shy of the 2012 value, but not by much.

"The tale will really be told in April and May" when water temperature increases or fluctuations might be more evident, Jordan said.

Though there is clear evidence of warmer water and accompanying early moltings, the full picture won't be clear for a couple of months.

But Todd said signs of a repeat of 2012 conditions in the Gulf of Maine raise anxiety about whether things are shaping up for a "perfect storm for a big lobster volume."

 

North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

ncairn@pressherald.com

 

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