Strong winds and record-setting shore prices prevailed during the opening month of the commercial lobster fishery in lobster fishing areas (LFA) 33 and 34.
The season opening was delayed by two days until Dec. 1 due to high winds. A record-setting opening shore price of $10/pound increased to the $11 range prior to Christmas.
“It’s been a rugged fall that’s for sure,” said East Pubnico fisherman Tommy Amirault, president of the Coldwater Lobster Association. “Overall, the catches seem average. The weather’s been horrible, but I think that’s what’s been helping us with the price. I think its kind of spread the catch out a little bit for what could have been a front loaded season.”
The opening price was approximately $2/pound higher than anticipated, says Leo Muise, executive director of the Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance.
“Since dealers establish the wharf price, these increases have been a self-inflicted wound. The higher than expected resource cost has created huge issues in the marketplace and has made the season to date extremely challenging for many of our members,” said Muise.
“The processing sector normally purchases a substantial portion of the December catch, however, the cost this season has significantly discouraged that sector from buying normal volumes. Sales to the United States of America have been lacklustre, sales to the Pacific Rim have been greatly diminished due to the high cost, particularly in the China market. Finally, sales to Europe and the Middle East have been diminished due to lack of air freight lift to key destinations due to the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 worldwide.”
Muise said it has been a challenge to find sufficient employees in the seafood sector lately at the best of times, however the impacts of the Omicron variant have increased the difficulty.
“The employees for our companies who are available and able to work have performed exceptionally well under these challenging circumstances and many companies have ramped up COVID-19 protocols, most particularly increased employee testing,” said Muise.
As for landings, Muise said the catches have been encouraging when the harvesters have been able to fish, with the resulting volume and quality being typical for this time of the year.
“Taken together, all of the above have placed a damper on the season thus far,” said Muise. “The unfortunate reality is that harvesters, shore buyers, live exporters, processors and our customers throughout the world need to find price points which work for everyone. Try as we might, we have a fair ways to go yet.”
Going into 2022, Amirault said finding redfish or rockfish for bait was becoming a little bit of an issue for fishermen. “It’s not really an industry problem. It’s more of a transportation problem I’m hearing,” he said.
“It hasn’t been a huge problem, it’s only been the last week or so. The bait dealers have been doing a really good job getting us what we need. It’s just been a little trickier than other years,” said Amirault.
Like everything else, bait prices have gone up this year. “Even haddock trimmings are over $1/pound,” said Amirault. “It’s the same old yarn. Lobster prices are higher but everything corresponding with it is higher.”