Maine lobstermen hauled in about $725 million worth of lobster in 2021, shattering the previous record of $541 million set in 2016.

Despite the record-breaking value, the pounds of lobster landed represented the third-lowest annual haul in the past decade. A huge price spike per pound is what pushed the value over the top.

Lobster harvesters landed about 108 million pounds in 2021, according to data released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The record, set in 2016, is about 132 million pounds. The 97 million pounds landed in 2020 was the lowest since 2010.


The average price per pound of $6.71 in 2021 was almost $2 higher than ever before and drove up the value of the catch substantially.

According to Jeff Putnam, a lobsterman out of Chebeague Island, it also drove up the effort.


With the high boat price, we all just went harder. We fished more,” he said. “The price was fair, the landings were solid and the weather was cooperative.”

In 2020, with the industry’s traditional markets shuttered and the boat price relatively unstable, lobstermen reportedly decreased their effort.

Putnam said he’s optimistic that demand and price will remain high in 2022, but after the yo-yoing of the past two years, he knows anything can happen.

According to the Department of Marine Resources, the 75 percent jump from last year’s $412 million haul is the largest year-over-year increase the state has ever seen.

“The extraordinary value earned last year by Maine lobster harvesters is a clear reflection of strong consumer confidence in the Maine lobster brand and the products and people it represents,” Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said in a statement.



The 108 million pounds landed in 2021 was lower than during most of the past several years, but according to Keliher, 2021 continued a 12-year run of close to or more than 100 million pounds landed.

Last year was “one for the books” and should be celebrated, Keliher said, but he noted that the industry is facing a number of challenges with new regulations to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales.

“It’s important that fishermen remain engaged in management discussions that will strive to make this stock resilient for future generations,” he said.

The numbers suggest something of a rebound for the Maine lobster industry, helped along by inflation, after the pandemic resulted in a lower catch and lower value in 2020 than in the years before.

The pandemic’s forced closure of traditional markets hit the industry hard, and canceled flights and economic shutdowns across the world tanked the international lobster market, as well.

Dealers and the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative quickly pivoted, targeting grocery stores and the home consumer. It was incredibly successful.


According to Marianne LaCroix, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, consumer awareness and interest in buying seafood for home preparation increased considerably in 2020.

But then in 2021, restaurants, cruise ships and hotels opened back up, and international exports resumed.

“It created a lot of demand in a lot of different sectors,” LaCroix said.

Plus, with the vaccines readily available and some sense of normalcy returning, people were willing to pay more for celebratory foods, she said. So they naturally turned to lobster.

Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association, said this “treat yourself” mentality created an “insatiable demand” for products.

Typically, live lobsters drive most of the demand for the dealers and processors.


However, with the ongoing labor crisis, many restaurants and businesses that normally would handle live lobsters instead moved to “value-added” products such as frozen lobster, lobster tails, minced lobster meat and more, Tselikis said.

Demand for these value-added products increased dramatically, she said.

Walt Day measures a lobster to see if it is a keeper while hauling on his boat Night Moves last summer off Vinalhaven. While the members of the lobster industry are pleased with a record-high $725 million haul in 2021, they say it will do little to ward off upcoming challenges like new restrictions to protect right whales. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer


Maine lobster industry members celebrated the record-breaking harvest value on Monday, but said a good financial year will not ward off any of their upcoming challenges. 

Fishermen say new rules from the federal government designed to protect right whales could wipe out the fishery over the next 10 years.

Other threats, such as losing lobstering bottom to windmill projects and aquaculture leases, also are on the horizon, LaCroix said. 


“It’s coming from all sides, so it’s nice to have a little good news,” she said. 

Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, said the industry needs to double down on efforts to make sure the news stays good. 

While last year’s harvest broke records, the challenges facing the fishery are unprecedented,” McCarron said in a statement. “Lobstermen continue to face escalating operational costs due to inflation and supply chain issues even as they cope with the federal government’s burdensome 10-year whale plan that threatens to wipe out the entire industry.”

The high price of lobster is a good thing for now, she said, but as inflation puts a squeeze on consumers’ wallets, it runs the risk of becoming too expensive. 

“These products are very expensive and consumers don’t like paying a lot for food,” Tselikis said, noting that lobster is one of the most expensive proteins on the market. “It will be interesting to see what happens moving forward.”

Putnam, the Chebeague Island lobsterman, is counting on them staying high. 


“I think that the price we’re seeing has to be sustained given the expenses we’re seeing on our end,” he said, citing rising fuel, labor and bait costs.

“We’re all at a point where we’re dependent on these higher prices. … It’s exciting to have a good year financially, but we have to be aware there are regulations that greatly threaten our industry as a whole,” he said.

In a statement, Gov. Janet Mills pledged to keep fighting for what she called a “vital Maine heritage” industry.

“The Maine lobster industry remains a cornerstone of our state’s coastal economy and identity because of the uncompromising commitment to quality that follows every lobster, from trap to table,” she said.

Other fisheries’ landings data will be reported in March. 

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