News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, July 19, 2012
Lobster prices up a bit, fishermen back to work

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by Jessica Brophy

Though it was hard to tell through the fog on Monday it seemed the unofficial tie up was officially over, with skiffs, not boats, on moorings in Stonington Harbor.

Price for new shell (shedder) lobsters has edged up 20 cents since last week to $1.70 at the Stonington Lobster Co-op on Tuesday, July 17. Price for hardshell lobster held steady at $4.25. Fish Log columnist Clare Grindal reports on page 15 that $1.70 to $2.10 is being paid for shedders across the area.

Low boat prices led many fishermen to stop hauling last week, with most boats tied up on Wednesday, July 11. Some fishermen tied up until Monday, while others headed back to haul on Friday or Saturday and still others never tied up at all.

Whether the tie-up affected the price, or if product moved through the distribution system due to Canadian processors reopening, is not clear. Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, called the current situation “the result of extraordinary market conditions here and in Canada” in a July 12 press release.

In a July 16 statement in an MLA newsletter, McCarron explained the “extraordinary market” included a record season for lobster in Canada and increased lobster landings in Maine.

“In my opinion the overarching reason for this spring’s lobster price is that there is simply too much lobster in the supply chain,” said McCarron.

Several statewide and local efforts to improve demand for lobster have been announced recently. One is a large-scale marketing program called Project Maine Lobster, spearheaded by the Lobster Advisory Council. McCarron called it a “comprehensive program to build global demand for Maine lobster [that] could lead to stronger boat prices and a more stable future for our industry if it moves forward.” The project is still in its planning stages.

The second is a “Maine Lobster Lover” campaign orchestrated by the Maine Lobster Promotion Council. The MLPC announced on July 16 that it will “celebrate” the “robust harvest” of the current season with contests and giveaways “that will make any lobster lover drool.” The campaign will launch in August.

The third program is a Stonington-specific project coordinated by the town, presented in full on page 7. The program, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a broad program including a pilot study on “best handling practices” to reduce lobster mortality (known as shrinkage in the industry). Kristen Bailey, marketing specialist, is also looking at marketing Stonington lobster, and Stonington Economic Development Director Matt Skolnikoff is developing a marketing strategy based on Bailey’s work, as well as analyzing lobster handling and process issues.