two lobstermen with bright orange rubber bibs and gloves offloading their catch into big bright bins
Captain David Thomas and the crew of “Just a’Pluggin” offloading a haul of lobster onto the floating dock of the Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-op, at Islesford (of the Cranberry Isles), Maine, on July 10, 2018.

A report by the Center for the Blue Economy and the University of Southern Maine finds the seafood sector contributed over $3.2 billion dollars in total economic output to the Maine economy in 2019.

The Center for the Blue Economy at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies recently prepared a report for the Seafood Economic Accelerator for Maine, along with collaborators from the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Southern Maine.

The analysis utilizes the best available data from the Maine Departments of Marine Resources and Labor together with the IMPLAN economic model to estimate the total (direct, indirect, and induced) economic impacts of the commercial seafood sector and core value chain components on the state of Maine and substate regions. The report is intended to serve as a baseline indicator from which to compare impacts in future years, as well as to evaluate the impact of specific investments or initiatives on the growth of the sector over time. The major findings of the analysis are:

  • The seafood sector contributed over $3.2 billion dollars in total economic output to the Maine economy in 2019. Retail seafood ($692 million), lobster harvesting ($511 million), and seafood processing ($343 million) were the largest contributing industries to total economic output.
  • The sector supported over 33,300 jobs statewide in 2019, 23,846 of which were employed directly in sector industries and another 7,300 additional jobs supported from other indirect and induced multiplier effects. Harvesting including lobster, non-lobster species and aquaculture is the largest employing part of the seafood sector supporting over 12,700 jobs, followed by retail seafood outlets, including restaurants (8,550).
  • Total direct and multiplier effects jobs in seafood estimated here makes the seafood sector the largest natural resource-based sector in the Maine economy.
  • Employment supported $1.3 billion in total labor income, $967 million of which were from direct employment in the value chain industries and another $336 million resulting from other indirect and induced multiplier effects. Contributions to labor income were led by lobster harvesting ($393 million), retail ($285 million), and all other non-lobster species harvesting ($155 million).
  • The seafood sector supported an estimated $449 million in tax revenues in 2019, including local, state, and federal. The sector supported nearly $91 million in local and $110 million in state tax revenues. A total of $248 million in federal tax revenues were also supported.
  • Regionally, the seafood sector in the Downeast region accounted for 45 percent of all direct jobs (and 47.4% of total impact jobs) and supported $390 million in labor income (16 percent) in 2019. The seafood sector in Downeast supports slightly more jobs than Southern Maine despite having less than one-fifth of the population. Downeast seafood jobs were concentrated in the harvesting subsector — the region accounted for 65 percent of all harvesting jobs in seafood sector statewide in 2019. These estimates are likely conservative as a result of a significant amount of harvesting activity that did not have geographic identifying information attached — accounting for nearly 3,700 jobs.
  • The seafood sector supported over 10,000 jobs and over $260 million in labor income in 2019 in the Midcoast region. The sources of economic impacts from the seafood sector are concentrated in lobster harvesting and retail for the region, with aquaculture comprising a smaller but growing sources of jobs and income in the region.
  • In Southern Maine, the seafood sector supported over 7,600 jobs and $370 million in labor income — slightly less than Downeast. The bulk of direct jobs were supported by the retail industry sector (over 4,000), while harvesting (all species wild caught) supported roughly 1,240 jobs.
  • The seafood sector’s total economic impact is a much larger share of the Downeast region, accounting for almost 20% of employment than the sector comprises of Midcoast or Southern economies.
An illustration of the wild caught fisheries value chain
Wild Caught Fisheries Value Chain
The continuing updating and improvement of economic data for the seafood sector and the individual industries should be a high priority for the industry and policy makers.
— Dr. Charles Colgan, Director of Research, Center for the Blue Economy and Study Author

It is important to emphasize that the estimates in this report are likely to be underestimates. A large number of aquaculture operations are not incorporated in the data, only retail outlets (markets and restaurants) requiring a DMR license are included, and marine recreational fishing has been excluded entirely.

The study focused on a single year of data: 2019. This is because of the substantial amount of customized data construction that was done to measure the economy of the seafood sector which had to be developed. The year 2019 was selected to avoid using data from a year affected by the Covid pandemic. But understanding the effects of the pandemic is still important.

For that purpose, employment data from the Department of Labor were analyzed and preliminary findings show that seafood markets have grown in employment since 2019, with little interruption from the pandemic.

For More Information

Read the full report:   The Economic Impacts of the Maine Seafood Sector

Author credit for this story goes entirely to the authors of the report:  Ryan Wallace, Director of the Center for Business & Economic Research of the University of Southern Maine, and Charles S. Colgan, Director of Research in the Center for the Blue Economy of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.