Written by Linc Bedrosian
August 11, 2012
The old saw is that there’s strength in numbers. Unfortunately the strong numbers of lobsters filling Maine harvesters’ traps have led to weak prices.
A glut of bugs in Maine has driven dock prices down into the $2 per pound range this year. Crustacean Nation enjoyed a mild winter and began its shedding process early this year. Since soft-shelled lobsters don’t ship well, they end up being sold to processors for a lower price then their hard-shell counterparts command in live markets.
Which triggered another problem. The volume of low-priced Maine lobsters being sold to New Brunswick processors is angering Canadian harvesters, because the inexpensive Maine product is lowering the price they receive.
The low prices sparked protests and blockades of the U.S. product being delivered to Canadian processors. The situation grew heated enough that only a court-ordered 10-day injunction has cooled things off for now.
Even the politicians have gotten involved. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) was asking Canadian authorities to provide police escorts to trucks delivering Maine lobster to Canadian processors, and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) was calling for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to get involved in negotiations.
Is there a silver lining to the lobster woes? Perhaps. The problems have rekindled discussions of the need to bolster Maine lobster’s marketing efforts and whether ways can be found to improve the state’s processing capacity. Such discussion, if it leads to action, could help ward off similar woes in the future.
And in an effort that could help improve lobstermen’s situation now, Maine’s Lobster Promotion Council this month kicked off a Lobster Lovers Celebration campaign that will continue through November. It’ll feature lobster specials at participating restaurants, cash mobs, contests, giveaways and special prizes.
But it also won’t hurt if harvesters’ traps fill with hard-shell lobsters this fall and consumers continue indulging in this tasty treat through the holidays. And lobstermen will appreciate it if Old Man Winter introduces enough of a chill in the air to bring water temperatures back to normal in anticipation of a better 2013.
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