Maine Seafood Guide - Lobster

Lobster

species description | season | status | regulatory authority |
harvest method | recreational harvest | health benefits & risks | 
buying & preparing | brands | certifications | links | featured harvester



Species Description
American lobster Homarus americanus

Wild. Hatchery techniques have been developed to “seed” juvenile lobsters in the wild, should local fisheries become depleted in the future.

American lobster is a bottom-dwelling (benthic) crustacean that grows to harvestable size in five to seven years. As invertebrates, lobsters grow by molting, or shedding, their old shell and growing a new one to accommodate growth.



Season
Year-round, although the fishery in Maine waters peaks in late summer, when both hard and soft-shell lobsters (also known as "shedders" or easy-shell) are available. Fall is increasingly becoming the peak season. Much of the summer and fall catch is processed or placed in enclosed "pounds" located in many of Maine's bays, which allows for a winter supply of live lobster.
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Status (see the About page for definitions)
The lobster fishery is the largest fishery in Maine, accounting for nearly 70% of the value of total commercial seafood landings in 2010. The stock is not overfished nor is overfishing occuring. The 2009 peer-reviewed stock assessment report indicates the American lobster is at record high abundance and recruitment throughout most of the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank (more from Fishwatch.gov).

Maine lobstermen implement multiple conservation measures to protect the stock, including size limits and restrictions on taking egg-bearing females, among others. Maine lobstermen are currently working with scientists to reduce the impact of lobster fishing gear on marine mammals. A parallel effort is removing abandoned gear (“ghost traps”) from Maine’s coastal waters and shoreline.
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Regulatory Authority
Maine Department of Marine Resources and Maine lobstermen share management of the local resource via eight Lobster Zone Councils.

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission regulates the coastwide fishery.
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Harvest Method
Thousands of licensed Maine lobstermen work all along the coast, catching lobsters in more than three million stationary traps or pots. The majority of the fishery is nearshore and harvesters make day trips in owner-operator boats to deploy and collect pots.
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Recreational Harvest
Limit 5 traps with a non-commercial lobster and crab license from the Department of Marine Resources.
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Health Benefits & Risks
Lobster is low in fat and calories. Lobster is an excellent source of selenium, a good source of zinc, but a lower source of omega-3 fatty acids.

yellow warning symbolThe State of Maine has issued a consumption advisory advising against eating the tomalley, the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of the lobster. It functions as the liver and pancreas, and test results have shown the tomalley can accumulate contaminants such as mercury and dioxin, although studies have shown these to be below the FDA’s “generally recognized as safe” levels.
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Buying & Preparing
Freshness of live lobsters can best be discerned by looking at their antennae: lobsters have two long and two short antennae. If stored for a long period of time, lobsters will eat their antennae, which then regrow. So the more antennae (six or more), the longer the lobster has been in the tank. Live lobsters should be cooked as soon as possible after purchase, but they can be stored in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours. Keep them upright on their legs, tails tucked underneath, in a bowl or other container draped with seaweed, a towel, or newspaper soaked in cold, salted water. Do not pack in ice, as freshwater can kill lobsters. Cooked lobster meat can be stored fresh or frozen. Visit the Maine Lobster Council for more cooking tips. Processed lobster is available frozen raw, frozen cooked, refrigerated cooked, or canned.
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Companies, Brands, and Labels

Maine is home to numerous lobster cooperatives and dealers who sell direct to consumers or to retail markets. At Catch a Piece of Maine, subscribers can adopt a lobster pot and receive the trap's harvest all year long.

Lobster processors in Maine, who produce fresh and frozen lobster products, include the following:
Atwood Lobster
Calendar Islands
Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine
Portland Shellfish
Cozy Harbor
Shucks Maine Lobster (no retail sales)
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Certifications & Verifications
Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested

Certified Sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council
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Links



Featured Harvester
TBD.
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species description | season | status | harvest method | recreational harvest
health benefits & risks | 
buying & preparing | brands certifications | links | featured harvester