For many, summer in the Maritimes would not be complete without fresh lobster. But locals and tourists alike could have to shell out more for the crustaceans as prices reach historic highs.
“Our lobsters are gold-plated now. Prices have been the highest in commercial history,” says Stewart Lamont, managing director of Tangier Lobster Co. Ltd, a live lobster exporter on Nova Scotia’s eastern shore.
When the pandemic hit, export and restaurant industry demand plummeted. The shore price of lobster — the amount fishers get at the wharf from buyers — sunk as low as $4 a pound.
“There was an initial glut of lobsters on the market at the start of the lockdown but then it spun back the other way,” says Colin Sproul, president of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association. Sales of live and processed lobster rebounded following the first wave of COVID-19. Prices started to go up with demand and have continued climbing since.
Canadian lobster exports reached a staggering $3.26 billion last year, beating the previous record of $2.59 billion, set in 2019, by more than 25 per cent.
With many consumers saving money during the pandemic and limited travel or restaurant dining, the crustacean long considered a luxury item for special occasions became a top seller in the U.S.
“Americans bought lobster during the pandemic like they never did before and that drove up demand and price,” says Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.
While processed lobster — meat and tails — was in high demand in the U.S., sales of live lobster increased in Asia.
“There is unlimited demand in Asia for Canadian lobster,” Sproul says. “It’s a top quality product and we have a good trade relationship.”
Strong demand, coupled with smaller catches in winter months, sent shore prices spiralling as high as $19.50 a pound.
“The highest wharf price that I’ve ever heard of for lobster in my life was a few weeks ago at $19.50 a pound,” Sproul says.
Prices have since dropped to around $14.50 this week and could ease further during the spring lobster fishery. The opening of several lobster fishing areas across Atlantic Canada in the coming weeks is expected to boost supply.
Thousands of extra fishing boats will hit the water setting traps. Also, landings _ the catch or total weight of lobsters trapped and sold _ increase in warmer spring weather as well. The added supply should rein in prices, Lamont says.