There's a reason that wherever you go, or however you cook it, America's favorite crustacean is called "Maine" Lobster. The cold, clean waters of Maine's rocky coast provide an ideal habitat for lobster, and the patience and fortitude it takes to successfully harvest them in the sometimes punishing weather has been woven into the fabric of Maine's culture as long as anyone can remember.
An Eco-friendly and Sustainable Industry
The Maine lobster fishery is one of the most successfully regulated industries. Overall catches are not limited in Maine, but they are regulated by trap limits, size limits on lobsters, treatment of egg-laden female lobsters (they are returned to the water), and barriers to entry that prevent the industry from growing too big. As the fishery has grown over time, the regulations have changed and adapted to fit new situations. This process has led to a sustainable resource and a fishery that continues to prosper where others have failed.
- 124 million pounds – The number of pounds of lobster that were landed in Maine in 2014.
- 3 million traps – The approximate number of traps in Maine waters.
- 800 traps – The highest number of traps any one lobsterman can have in the water at any time.
- 6427 – The number of commercial lobster licenses issued in Maine in 2008.
- $200,000 – The cost of a fully-equipped lobster boat.
- $80 – The cost of one trap with rope and buoy.
- 3 8/32" min., 5" max. – The minimum and maximum size of a lobster that can be caught in Maine waters. Since 1934, the size of lobsters has been regulated. A "double gauge" has been used to measure each lobster from the rear of the eye socket to the rear of the body shell. All others are returned to the water for reproduction.
- 9-12 months – The length of time a female lobster carries its eggs.
- About 5 – The number of 1 pound lobsters it takes to make 1 pound of lobster meat.
- Each lobster trap must have both an opening to allow small lobsters to escape, as well as a biodegradable "ghost hatch" so that all the lobsters will be able to escape a trap that has been lost.
- Diving or dragging the sea floor for lobsters has been banned since 1961. Lobster may be caught in traps only.
- There is a set limit of traps each harvester (lobsterman) can set. This is to ensure over-fishing does not occur. The limit is 800 traps.
- There are limits and standards to obtaining a lobster harvesting license that are designed to prevent the industry from growing too big. The oldest license holder is 92 years old and the youngest is just 6.
- While there have been technological improvements that have made lobstering safer and more efficient, the basics of the job are unchanged since the 1800s – individual fishers place baited traps on the sea floor, which are then hauled out one-by-one, re-baited and replaced.
- Since 1872, the harvesting of female lobsters bearing eggs has been prohibited. Egg-bearing females are returned to the water for reproduction.