Lobster fishermen are responsible for catching lobsters in traps near shore or on boats in the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. This is a physically demanding job. The average salary for a lobster fisherman is $48,000, and physical strength and stamina are key qualifications. Other important skills include critical-thinking, analytical and decision-making, and machine operation. Despite improved technology, the majority of lobster fishing is still done by hand. As such, it is still one of the most labor-intensive professions in the seafood industry, according to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of lobster fishermen will grow at a rate slower than the national average through 2020. Seafood imports, which compete with domestic lobster sales, may also limit job growth.
This year lobster fishermen brought 98 million pounds of the crustaceans to the docks, worth about $389 million. That was down from the record haul of last year, which hit $725 million. But lobstermen still made more per pound in 2021 than ever before, in part because of the reopening of international markets and in part because of the booming demand for the crustaceans from places like China.
The price of fuel and bait is one of the main factors driving up the cost of lobsters, and some fishermen struggle to cover those costs. The lobster business also faces threats from climate change, and conservationists worry that lobstermen are entangling rare North Atlantic right whales. The whales are at risk of extinction with fewer than 350 individuals remaining, and they are particularly vulnerable to getting caught in lobster gear.