Assessing Maximum Economic Yield Efforts for Maine's Lobster Fishery

Efficiently maximizing economic benefits

This project evaluates the amount of effort that will maximize the overall economic benefit from the lobster resources in the Gulf of Maine by combining biological and economic models.

Project Goals:

  • Estimate current effort levels in the Maine Lobster Fishery that maximize the net present value of fishery profits over a 6-year time period.
  • Assess the economic effect of shifting to maximum economic yield effort levels given the varied biological and market conditions of the Maine Lobster Fishery.
  • Identify economic incentives that will support adaptation strategies for fishermen changing their practices collectively, and provide a series of tradeoffs for management considerations.

The Maine Lobster fishery dominated the Maine Coast for over two decades with steadily increasing landings, which peaked in 2016 at 131 million pounds with an ex-vessel value of $536 million (Maine Dept. of Marine Resources). Recent landings reports however, reveal changes in spatial and temporal patterns over time which may be early indicators of underlying changes in the health of these resources.

Despite stock health, the Gulf of Maine lobster industry faces a series of economic pressures from increased operating costs, bait shortages, ex-vessel price instabilities, and predicted declining catches due to variable recruitment levels. A large number of communities in Maine rely on the lobster fishery, where an average of 83% of household income comes from fishing (Dayton and Sun 2012).

In the last fifteen years, the Gulf of Maine experienced an unprecedented increase in sea surface temperature (SST) (Pershing et al. 2015; Thomas et al. 2017). The recent period of increased biological production in the Gulf of Maine has led to a sharp increase Maine lobster supply, largely unfettered by policy constraints, which has led to significant variability in the ex-vessel price per pound, directly correlating with volume (Dicolo and Friedman 2012) and trade relations. Lobster fisheries have experience severe declines in Southern New England (SNE) in 2010 and Australia (AUS) in 2009.

What lessons can we learn from their experiences?

What management adaptations were considered or acted upon?

How can we better prepare the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery from significant economic contraction in the face of expected declines in landings and increases in operating costs?

These questions must be informed through not only biological assessment of the population and health of the stock, but also through socio-economic analyses aimed at maximizing economic yield. We hypothesize the existence of a level of fishing effort that would simultaneously address climate driven changes in the underlying fishery, increases in operating costs, and the need to reduce vertical lines to protect against whale entanglements, all while balancing the economic sustainability of the industry.

This research will inform fishermen’s adaptation strategies by identifying the economic incentives for changing their practices collectively, and provide a series of tradeoffs for management consideration.

We will deploy our existing economic model framework in a forward-looking context, and generate substantive community dialog around change, and model input assumptions. The data gathering process will occur through a series of interviews and small meetings, and we will engage with Sea Grant and other project partners to generate community interest in this topic of Maximum Economic Yield.

Project Team

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