When you think of Maine, a few things may come to mind: rocky coastlines, pine forests, and lobster. Lots of lobster. The crustacean is the state’s unofficial mascot and a popular food that’s exported around the world. In 2013, a record 128 million pounds of lobster were harvested from Maine’s waters. That’s more than six times the haul in 1984.
“We’re in a period of historic abundance,” says Jeff Nichols, who works at the Maine Department of Marine Resources in Augusta. The organization manages commercial fishing throughout the state for many ocean species.
Though lobster catches have exploded over the years, other local fisheries are in steep decline. Cod is one example. Scientists estimate that only 2,500 tons of the fish are left off the coast of Maine. That’s almost one twentieth of what the population should be to keep fishing at a level that is healthy for cod.