HALLOWELL — Maine lobstermen last year caught more than 100 million pounds of lobster, the first time the lobster catch has topped the 100 million-pound mark, the state’s top fisheries official said today.

The preliminary catch numbers for 2011 illustrates just how strong the lobster resource remains, Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher told The Associated Press. The previous record of 94.7 million pounds, worth more than $313 million, was set in 2010.

“Based on the sheer number of juvenile lobsters we’re seeing on the bottom, whether we’ll continue at 100 million it’s hard to say, but I think we’ll continue to show strong landings for the next several years,” he said.

David Cousens, a South Thomaston lobsterman and the longtime president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, remembers when lobstermen were catching 20 million pounds a year. He never imaged the day when the catch would top 100 million pounds.

“Unreal,” he said.

Although the lobster catch came in strong last year, lobstermen have been hurt by low prices they’ve gotten for their catch since 2008, when the global economy sank.

Lobstermen are struggling with high prices for diesel fuel, bait, rope and other equipment, Cousens said.

“Our expenses are through the roof and the price of lobster is $1.50 a pound cheaper than it was in 2006,” he said.

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