ROCKPORT, Maine (AP) — For the seventh year in a row, Maine lobstermen have set a record for the value of their lobster catch.
Maine lobsters were worth a little more than $533 million at the docks in 2016, exceeding the previous year's record by more than $30 million, Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said Friday.
Interest in American lobsters has skyrocketed in Asia, especially China, in recent years, aiding the value of the crustaceans, which remain extremely popular with Americans on summer vacation and Europeans at Christmas.
At the same time, U.S. lobster fishermen have been catching more lobsters. Maine also set a record for volume in 2016, with state fishermen catching nearly 131 million pounds of lobster last year. That surpassed the previous record of nearly 128 million in 2013.
Conservative management of the lobster fishery has allowed the fishery to thrive in recent years, regulators said. Scientists have said warming oceans might also play a role, as the center of the lobster population appears to be moving north as waters warm. The catch off of Rhode Island and Connecticut has plummeted as Maine's has soared.
Maine's lobster catch has been climbing in value and volume for several years, with the state surpassing 100 million pounds for the first time in 2011. The total value of the catch at the dock leaped from less than $240 million in 2009 to more than $315 million in 2010 and has continued to climb since.
"From 2012 to 2016, the landed value of the Maine lobster industry has increased by $191 million," Keliher said.
He noted that the increase has aided other fisheries, such as herring.
"Not surprisingly, also up is the value of your bait," Keliher told a room full of lobstermen at the Maine Fishermen's Forum on Friday in Rockport.
American lobsters are also caught off of other coastal New England states and New York, but Maine accounts for the bulk of the catch. Canadian fishermen also catch lobsters.