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  • Writer's picturerryancleary

2024 — (Upside down) Year of the Lobster

Lobster catches are reportedly up dramatically in many areas of the Maritimes and Newfoundland, but prices to inshore enterprise owners are down severely since mid-March when the Nova Scotia shore price skyrocketed to $20/lb. In Quebec, DFO is looking at increasing the number of harvesting licenses. Could that happen here in this province?

Cooked lobster for sale this week at Suri's Convenience on Little Bay Road, Springdale.


Overview of the Upside Down Year of the Lobster

LOBSTER PRICE

The price this week of lobster (1 1/4/lbs quarters) on the Urner Barry index of U.S. seafood prices is $5.85 US ($8.01 Canadian) — down from $6.03US last week, and $7 US this time last year.


Lobster prices at the wharf have taken a huge dive since spring when the Nova Scotia shore price reportedly hit $20/lb


Urner Barry lobster prices:

March — $16.87 US 

April — $13.63 US

May — $7.11US


FFAW PRICE

For the week of May 26th-June 1st the union-negotiated minimum price is $5.63/lb Canadian, down from $9.27/lb in mid-April.


The Gulf Area Fishing News quoted the NL lobster price for the week of May 19-25th at $8.61, but that was the Urner Barry US price converted to Canadian.


The price to harvesters was actually $6.06.


Mistakes happen, although some harvesters (who still aren't over the FFAW's 2¢/lb lobster levy) believe the union was trying to make itself look good.


FFAW prices:


Undercurrent news reported on May 30th that wharf prices in Nova Scotia varied from $7/lb to $8/lb in different areas.


At the same time, the Gulf Area Shipping News facebook group was reporting that Quebec fishermen were getting $6.76/lb.


Strong landings driving down price

Undercurrent seafood news has also reported that Nova Scotia lobster landings are 20% to 40% better than last year. 


With so many lobsters ready for processing or live sale they're piling up in some Cape Breton harbours, as the CBC recently reported, creating large flotillas of plastic crates.


Lobster landings in some areas of Newfoundland are reportedly at record levels too, with crates of lobsters also piling up in Conception Bay.


OCI was buying lobster today (June 7th) in Arnold's Cove, although harvesters report that some product was being dumped from access to fresh water, a result of too much rain and lobster being kept too close to the surface.


Undercurrent news also reports that DFO plans to gather data to determine whether lobster stocks around Quebec can accommodate more commercial fishing licences.


Details are still being worked out, but there could be more licences by next year.


Will DFO look to do the same here in NL?


According to DFO, lobster landings to date in NL are at 5.9 million pounds, with a landed value of $43 million and per-pound price of $7.40.


TOTAL NL LOBSTER LANDINGS (DFO Stats)

2023 — 15.9 million pounds — $7.5 average per pound

2022 — 13.5 million pounds — $7.9 average per pound

2021 — 10.1 million pounds — $7.7 average per pound

2020 — 9.8 million pounds —  $4.5 average per pound

2019 — 10.1 million pounds — $6.3 average per pound

2018 — 7.4 million pounds — $6.5 average per pound

2017 — 6.3 million pounds — $7 average per pound

2016 — 6.2 million pounds — $5.7 average per pound

2015 — 6.7 million pounds — $5.4 average per pound


Urner Barry price doesn’t include sales to Asia 

It’s important to note the Urner Barry seafood index only estimates lobster prices going into the United States — not Asia.


In August 2022, Halifax Air Cargo Logistics Park was officially launched, and one of the tenants, First Catch Fisheries, has a set up that can store lobster for up to three weeks, and can accommodating three 747s for loading/unloading. The company says it has achieved over 78% market share in China of Canadian lobster.


A $10-million seafood storage facility is also being constructed at Gander International airport.


This province's fish price-setting panel has pointed out in recent years that the lobster pricing formula in this province may be obsolete. The formula was initially adopted in 2011, when it was generally accepted that lobster purchased one week was shipped out the next.


In 2023, the landed value of NL lobster ($120 million) was NL's third most valuable commercial fishery behind snow crab $253 million) and northern shrimp ($125 million).


Ryan cleary is a former journalist, Member of Parliament, union leader, and long-time inshore fisheries advocate who’s currently helping to organize a co-operative (fpcnl.ca) for inshore enterprise owners. The opinions expressed in this blog are his own. Contact him at fpc-nl@outlook.com or call/text 709 682 4862. 


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