Lobster prices up slightly 3 weeks after protest

·2 min read
Lobster caught off the East Coast of New Brunswick, from Escuminac south, is now selling to local processing plants and other buyers for about $6 a pound. (Kayla Hounsell/CBC - image credit)
Lobster caught off the East Coast of New Brunswick, from Escuminac south, is now selling to local processing plants and other buyers for about $6 a pound. (Kayla Hounsell/CBC - image credit)

Lobster prices have rebounded a bit as the fishing season nears the halfway point in the Northumberland Strait area.

Fishermen are now getting about $6/pound for their catches, said Luc LeBlanc of the Maritime Fishermen's Union.

That's up from about $4.50 a few weeks ago, when hundreds of fishermen from along the east coast of New Brunswick protested in Shediac.

Some of them said they would not be going out fishing because it would cost them more than they would get paid to do so.

Some work fewer days

At the current prices, said LeBlanc, they are roughly breaking even.

"No one's making any money or if they are not much," he said.

Most are fishing, however, because they need the cash flow.

"Folks have bills to pay," said LeBlanc, "and employees to remunerate."

To tighten their belts, he said, they're taking steps such as going out to fish every two or three days instead of daily and scaling back from three deckhands to one or two.

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

"They're intensely concentrated on trying to reduce expenses."

The financial pressures are especially high, he said, for fishing enterprises that have big loans to repay for things like new boats or licences.

Prices hit historic highs in the last couple of seasons.

In March, wharf side prices peaked at $17.50 a pound in southwestern Nova Scotia.

"Everybody in the fishing industry is well aware that those prices might not have been sustainable," said LeBlanc.

A "good price" in the current economic context would be around $7/pound.

LeBlanc is hopeful prices will climb higher before the end of the season.

"We're just keeping our fingers crossed that the markets co-operate."

It's possible the price correction has bottomed out, he said.

"There's nowhere to go but up."

The price largely depends on demand from the United States, where 85 per cent of the catch ends up, said LeBlanc.

Consumers pull back

"What we're seeing now is American consumers are really particularly affected by this inflationary crisis we're going through," he said.

"Consumers seem to have been pulling back from buying lobster and seafood in general."

Meanwhile, in other potential markets, Europe is facing a similar inflation problem, he said, and China still has logistical problems related to COVID-19.

"There's no vehicle in which to liquidate these volumes of seafood that we're producing in Canada right now," said LeBlanc.