Former BDN coastal reporter Alex Acquisto lends a hand at the lobster cooking station at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland in 2017. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN

ROCKLAND, Maine — Maine’s annual celebration of its most beloved crustacean is here, and it’s taking place amid a pivotal time in the industry’s history.

The Maine Lobster Festival takes place in Rockland, and it got started Wednesday, continues Saturday and ends Sunday. The festival started in the late 1940s and is a salute to the kettle-bound critters, hundreds of which will be consumed over the course of the week.

[How the Maine Lobster Festival hopes to gain back local support]

Maine’s the biggest lobster fishing state in the U.S. by far. Catch has been high in recent years, but the industry is dealing with multiple stresses. One is the possibility of new protections to help save the endangered North Atlantic right whales.

[Take a trip down memory lane with these throwback Maine Lobster Festival photos]

The industry’s also facing a bait shortage, and trade hostilities with China have made it hard to deal with a key market for the seafood.