People have been trapping and eating the American lobster in New England and the Canadian Maritime Provinces since the mid-1800s, if not earlier. Today, the commercial lobster fishery generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
The long-term success of the commercial lobster fishery is largely due to four factors:
- Size restrictions. Fishermen are not allowed to collect juveniles, egg-bearing females or adult lobsters over a certain size.
- Environmentally-friendly fishing methods. The traps and pots used to capture lobsters do not cause serious habitat damage.
- Fishing intensity restrictions. The lobster fishery limits the total number of traps permitted at any one time.
- Collaboration. There is a strong element of cooperation between scientists and lobster fishermen.
The lobster fishery is the most valuable commercial fishery along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and Canada. Through the mid-1900s, lobster landings held stable at approximately 20 million pounds each year. This has increased dramatically over the past few decades. Landings in the U.S. have been at record highs through the past few years, with approximately 80 million pounds of lobsters landed and a dockside value of around $250 million. These dramatically increased landings are largely due to an increased effort and intensity of lobster fishing.There are now concerns that the wild lobster population is being overfished and may not be able to support this intensity of fishing.