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Lobster Prices Strong as Shedder Season Ramps Up

As restaurants reopen throughout the country and tourism in Maine hits new heights, Maine lobstermen are feeling the love. Both price and landings appear to be strong, at least at mid-summer as shedder season ramps up. “I never thought I’d see $5 a pound shedders,” said, Darrel Payne, manager at the Corea Lobster Cooperative. In late July the boat price paid by the coop for hardshell lobsters was $7.00 and soft shell $5.10. On Vinalhaven, the Fisherman’s Cooperative was paying $8.20 for hardshell and a whopping $6.85 for shedders. “It went to $7 briefly for shedders,” said Coop manager Carol Hamilton. “I’ve been fishing since I was 11 and I’ve never seen that price. Plus we’re landing a lot of lobsters now.” Prices at Cape Porpoise Lobster were comparable, where the boat price in late July was $7.50 for hardshell and $6.50 for softshell.

“Lobster prices are still at record highs for this time of year,” said John Sackton, founder of SeafoodNews.com. “Partly it is the huge demand for lobster meat, which is keeping Canadian processors buying at shore prices they never would have touched before the pandemic. Also food service demand continues to be strong. I think there is a strong desire for people to recoup some of the time they lost during lockdowns or closures and that is providing a spending bump which has meant consumers in the U.S. are not rejecting these prices.”

According to seafood business company Urner Barry, the retail price in early June for a live, 1.5 pound lobster was $9.05, up from $5.47. By early July, the company reported that the average price of frozen two-pound packages of lump lobster meat was about $20 higher than at the same time in 2020, and about $15 higher than at the start of this year. U.S. fresh and frozen seafood sales hit $585 million in June, according to IRI and 210 Analytics, a rise of nearly 44% compared to 2019.

“The price of lobster is constantly connected to the price that is dictated by the market,” Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association told SeafoodSource. “What we’re looking at right now is straight-up supply and demand.”

The price increase for lobster has translated into higher prices paid to lobstermen but also higher prices paid by consumers. The newspapers were full of stories in early summer of $34 lobster rolls being purchased by eager buyers. Even the lobsters sold by Hannaford Supermarkets in late July were higher in price compared to this time last year, at $12.49 per pound for hardshell and $9.99 for softshell. Yet demand has remained strong, according to Marianne LaCroix, executive director of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council.

“I’m hearing that there is good demand across sectors and geography — domestic, international, restaurants, groceries and online,” she said in an email. “My impression is that both grocery and online might be down a little from 2020. Last year was such a boom for both of those sectors that it wouldn’t be surprising if they are a little softer this year.”

According to Tselikis, “The pandemic is a huge driver. It’s the fact that people are out and restaurants are open. You add on top of that that people have basically been holed up for a year-and-a-half, and they’re out and looking to celebrate and they’re doing that with great products like lobster.”

As lobstermen move into the height of the season in August and early fall, the hope is that demand for Maine lobster continues to hold strong. Still, as Carol Hamilton put it, “So far it’s been a good year and a good price.”

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