PORT CLYDE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine's lobstermen are starting to worry that in a few years, there will be fewer lobsters to catch. That would be a dramatic change, because the lobster industry has seen record catches of more than 120 million pounds for the past two years.
However, the same scientists who predicted that population surge said they now are seeing a drop in the number of baby lobsters settling on the bottom of the ocean. Lobsters hatch as larvae in May or June, float in the water for up to two months and then settle to rocky bottom, where they take seven to eight years to grow to legal size. Scientists said the drop in the settlement of these baby lobsters could mean a drop in lobster catches five to seven years from now.
Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher has been spreading the word to fishermen to fishermen about the research and its implications. Keliher held a series of meetings along the coast in March and April, and says fishermen seemed to take the information seriously.
The challenge for the lobster industry will be what to do about the potential decline in catch. Lobster prices have been relatively low for several years, and fishermen say it was only the huge volume of lobsters that allowed them to make decent incomes.
Lobstermen said if the catch drops to 100 million or event 80 million pounds –still larger than it was just six years ago –they will have to see higher prices in order to remain profitable. But fishermen also say they may need to make changes to fishing regulations and practices, reduce costs and increase efficiency as the industry adjusts to smaller population of lobsters.
Commissioner Keliher said the fishing industry does have some time to prepare for the lobster drop, and said, "the sky isn't falling".