Island fishermen are anticipating the start of the spring lobster season in a few weeks with heightened optimism.
In areas where the season has already started, fishing is reaching record prices. Some fishermen in the Maritimes report receiving up to $20 a pound for their lobster.
“It really does us good. Anglers are optimistic,” said Charlie McGeoghegan, chairman of the Lobster Fishers of PEI marketing board.
Last spring, lobster prices in P.E.I. reached record prices, starting the season at a 15-year high.
But expenses have risen for fishermen since then, with McGeoghegan saying it is four times higher than it was five years ago.
“The price of fuel, of course, is up almost a dollar a liter from last year, and that’s one of our biggest expenses,” he said.
“With the cost of that and the cost of bait, the price has to be high to keep revenue where it needs to be.”
Prices are now hovering around $15 a pound. Although they usually drop a little once the island’s fishermen hit the water, McGeogheghan said they won’t drop much more because demand is high while supply remains low.
“Nova Scotia, on the live game side, usually has between five and eight million pounds before our season starts, and they don’t have any,” he said.
“It’s nice to see that more countries are eating lobster than ever before. So it’s come to a point where there are more people looking for lobster than we have lobster available, and that’s a good place to be.”
“New York Prize”
For Island restaurants that serve lobster, the news is not so good.
Coady Campbell, manager of Water Prince Corner Shop, crunches the numbers to see what his business will need to charge for the lobster rolls to make a profit.
“If it’s $12 [per pound] you’ll probably have to charge $35 for a lobster roll to make it really profitable. Islanders aren’t going to pay $35 for a lobster roll,” Campbell said.
“It’s not working. So I mean, either restaurants are going to have to start taking lobster dishes off the menu or sell them at a loss.”
Campbell said the high price of lobster and rising spending elsewhere would put a damper on what is expected to be a busy tourist season.
“People are going to expect to pay a high price for a lobster in New York or Tokyo,” he said.
“Now that we’re potentially paying New York prices here when the lobster is caught not that far away, that’s the real challenge and maybe the scary part.”
McGeoghegan said his industry, however, depended on keeping prices high.
“It’s good for the whole economy, and certainly good for our whole industry,” he said.
“If prices stay high, it’s good for fishermen and for the economy. If they go down, it won’t be good.”