Maine lobstermen and women have done an outstanding job conserving an important public resource for Maine — lobsters.

Let’s not forget, however, that Mother Nature, for some unknown reason, has given that conservation ethic a big boost in the last 20 years.

The catch has gone from roughly 20 million pounds per year for 50 years or so to over 100 million pounds in 2011. That is pretty wonderful for lobster harvesters and Maine’s economy, but let’s not get carried away betting on continuing increases in the future. Most populations of wild creatures fluctuate with natural forces beyond our control and I am pretty sure that will be the case with our lobster population.

Basing public investments on projections of continuing massive catches in the future is probably not something we should be doing.

Let’s work cautiously to maximize the economic return from the harvesting of this valuable public resource now, realizing that it is very unlikely that increases in the total harvest will continue. Let’s focus our efforts on the types of secondary processing and marketing that will have the biggest positive impact on the Maine economy over the long term.

Richard B. Anderson is a resident of Portland.