Live hard-shell North American lobsters (Homarus americanus ) arriving in Nova Scotia, Canada, can be paid up to C$13.00 (US$9.61) per pound caught on the wharf. That's up $5.00 (63%) from almost a month ago. Meanwhile, US wholesalers reported prices for 4-5 oz lobster tails as high as $21.00/lb, up about $3.00 (17%) over the same period.
The reasons for the increase in lobster tail prices are complex, but part of the increase in live lobster prices at the wharf is due to high demand in Asia during the Lunar New Year celebrations. On Tuesday (February 21), Stewart Lamont, manager of Nova Scotia-based exporter Tangier Lobster Company, said that the Chinese market wants every lobster in the sea before the Spring Festival, and the United States also needs to ship some. China. So not only is there strong sales directly from Canada to China, but also strong sales to U.S. customers who transship to their customers. The momentum continued into Valentine's Day, February 14, although not as strongly as in previous years. Demand in Asia has since cooled sharply due to higher prices.
Lamont argued that the C$11.00, C$12.00 and C$13.00 on-shore rates Nova Scotia has seen recently are "not working" in the market and he hopes they don't rise above C$10.00. But he is reluctant to predict that they will now fall due to reduced demand, recalling how they reached a high of C$17.50/lb in early 2022.
Insufficient lobster landings
Urner Barry (UB) wholesale prices for live hard-shell lobster released on Tuesday are likely to be lower, with average prices for "chicks" ranging from $12.00 to $1.00 to 1/8 pound. $12.50, compared to $12.25 to $12.75/lb for 1.25lb lobsters. By comparison, however, as early as January 26, UB chicks were priced at $9.95-10.50/lb and 1.25lb were at $10.25-10.75/lb – roughly $2.00 less in each category.
Canada's largest Lobster Combined Fishing Areas (LFAs) 33 and 34 are off the southeast and southwest coasts of Nova Scotia, respectively, where fishermen are seeing prices as low as $8.00/lb when the season starts in late November and early December, Dock prices rose to $10.00/lb by the end of January and have been steadily moving north since then. Most of the lobsters sold in Nova Scotia today are lobsters that were caught earlier and housed in warehouses by fishermen. Despite the higher prices, many fishermen have parked their boats rather than deal with harsh winter weather, low catches and high costs for fuel and bait.
Lamont said the catch is now so small that fishermen go out once or twice a week. Although catches in some areas were better than in previous years. It's impossible to say how many lobsters Nova Scotia's fishermen still have, but he estimates at least 50 percent have now cleared their stocks. And he won't see more lobsters being caught until late March or early April at the earliest.
Live lobster dock prices rise
John Norton, founder and president of Cozy Harbor Seafood, a Portland, Maine-based processor, said in late January that North American lobster tails were becoming increasingly scarce and more expensive. It's getting worse, hearing from US wholesalers this week.
A wholesaler said 4-5 oz lobster tails were hard to find and expensive, while 5-6 oz tails seemed to be bought by no one. 4-5 oz lobster tails sold for an average of $20.00-20.50/lb on Tuesday, up 14-15% from the $17.50-17.75/lb posted on Jan. 26, while sizes 5-6 oz lobster tails The average price was $20.75-21.25/lb, up 17-18% from January's price of $17.75-18.00/lb. Average selling prices for 3-4 oz lobster tails are $18.75-19.00/lb, up only 10% from January 26 prices of $17.00-17.25.
Another wholesaler believes that UB prices are about two weeks behind the actual upward trend in lobster prices. He asserts $21.00/lb for 4-5 oz lobster tails and $22.95/lb for 5-6 oz lobster tails. He said the wholesaler bought 25 cases of 5-6 oz lobster tails at nearly $24.00/lb because he was determined to maintain supply for his regular customers.
Lobster Meat Prices Stable
Lobster meat prices have remained relatively stable as prices for lobster tails have soared. UB's proposed average price range for tail paw knuckles on Tuesday was $26.50-$27.00/lb, about 2% lower than the $27.00-$27.50/lb announced on January 26th.
The average price range for claw joint (often used in lobster rolls) and claw joint leg meat in UB was unchanged over the past month. "Meat prices are unchanged, but buyer interest appears to be increasing," UB noted.