Wharf price for Nova Scotia lobster has plunged in April

·3 min read
Lobster prices paid to fishermen have dropped from $17.50 a pound on April 3 to $10 and $11 on Monday. (CBC - image credit)
Lobster prices paid to fishermen have dropped from $17.50 a pound on April 3 to $10 and $11 on Monday. (CBC - image credit)

Lobster prices paid to fishermen have plunged between 37 and 42 per cent in Nova Scotia this month.

The decline, from $17.50 a pound on April 3 to $10 and $11 on Monday, comes as the lobster fishery is set to open in more locations in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes.

Shore prices tend to drop each spring as more supply enters the market.

Prices at the grocery store have also come down, at least at Sobeys, where live lobster was selling for $17.99 a pound at one Halifax store. That was a drop of three dollars per pound from last week.

Atlantic Superstore in Halifax was charging $22.99 a pound for live lobster on Monday.

Paul Withers / CBC
Paul Withers / CBC

What made the drop in the shore price more unusual in 2022 were the historic highs that preceded them.

The prices were the result of favourable market conditions and buyers willing to pay a premium to keep supply rolling during a slow period for the fishery in southwestern Nova Scotia.

"When all the boats stop fishing and supply gets down, then they put the price up," said Peter Connors, a lobster fisherman and president of the Eastern Shore Fisherman's Protective Association. "I suppose they've got niche markets here now that they can supply for that price when they're only getting a limited quality."

Buyers were also willing to pay fishermen a premium for good relations in future. The fishery in southwest Nova Scotia, which closes in May, reopens in November, pouring huge volumes into the area's lobster pounds.

Eastern Shore opens

Connors fishes in Lobster Fishing Area 32, located east of Halifax. It opened Friday for 150 licence holders.

Fishermen there were getting $11 a pound for first landings, which were strong despite windy weather.

In southwest Nova Scotia, where Lobster Fishing Areas 33 and 34 — the largest in Canada — have been open since late November, fishermen were getting $10 a pound on Monday.

"We've gotten off to a good start on the Eastern Shore in terms of fishing and quality," said buyer Stewart Lamont of Tangier Lobster. "The hard-shell spring lobster quality is as good as it ever is, so that's encouraging."

However, he doesn't expect to see a return to the highs of the last few months. He doesn't want to see them either.

Record prices were 'irresponsible'

"I must confess, I think $17.50 was irresponsible," he said. "I didn't think it respected the circumstances of our clients around the world. We kind of held them to ransom and they reluctantly paid the price. But I think now we have a sour aftertaste that is fairly predictable."

Lamont said there will be less demand in China with much of the country in full or partial lockdown.

"Without the normal appetite, in a supply-and-demand market, we adjust prices. So I'm guessing prices are going to have to come down."

Coming off a boom year

The lobster industry has experienced a remarkable rebound since the COVID pandemic briefly shut down exports during the fist wave in the spring of 2020.

Canadian lobster exports topped $3.2 billion in 2021, the highest annual total on record and more than $700 million higher than pre-pandemic levels.

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