HomeIndustryRecord Landings Creating Marketing Challenges in N.S. Lobster Industry

Record Landings Creating Marketing Challenges in N.S. Lobster Industry

Lobster landings are estimated to be up anywhere from 30 to 49 per cent in Eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton this season.

In lobster fishing area (LFA) 27 off Northeastern Cape Breton, for the first month of the season, a 49 per cent increase in the catch was recorded, said Osborne Burke, General Manager of Victoria Cooperative Fisheries.

In LFAs 31 and 32 along the eastern shore, landings are estimated to be up 30 to 40 per cent, said Stewart Lamont, managing director of the Tangier Lobster Company.

“From May 15 to 31, you have every lobster area in Nova Scotia open at the same time. We had more lobsters in 2022, but didn’t have issues because there wasn’t as much lobster production in other areas. This year every area produced an excessive number of lobsters,” said Burke.

“The good news from a harvesting perspective is the catch is up season over season on the eastern shore somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent. That’s a sign of lobster that nobody was bargaining on. Fishermen have had a good season with a pretty robust catch,” said Lamont.

For the lobster buyers and dealers, both Burke and Lamont said the season has been challenging.

“Supply and demand floods the market. It becomes a buyer’s market. We had days we didn’t buy; some others didn’t buy some days; we had a trip limit on for a period of time to slow it down… It was challenging at times,” said Burke.

Shore prices opened at $7.50/pound, dropped to $6.50, and were sitting at $7 the last week of June, said Burke. “When you look at it in relation to the market, you’re competing with lobsters coming out of Newfoundland at $5.50 so we’re starting behind the eight ball, so when you’re trying to market lobsters, it’s hard to do when you’re paying above market price. $7, $7.50 was above market considering the market conditions and the volume of lobsters available.”

“I keep saying it’s the curse of the 20-dollar bill. We paid $20 at the wharf in March. Company after company delisted lobster in Europe in particular so it’s probably the softest demand from the first of April to now that I’ve ever seen in my career,” said Lamont. “Company after company internationally are just waiting for cheaper prices. We still have clients with the season coming to a close holding off some of their buying because they are convinced the price will fall.”

Lamont said so far, the lower prices haven’t stimulated demand.

“No, I was sure it would but it hasn’t. We had two major markets this spring. One is the processing sector. They did have an appetite and the other is mainland China, the People’s Republic of China. Both of those markets wanted lobster at a serious discount, dealer cost, dealer below cost. The traditional markets in Europe and the rest of Asia have allowed us to move additional product at higher prices but the whole market has been depressed. It’s like something snapped when we went to $20 and I don’t think it’s recovered yet.”

Domestically, sales in Canada “are better than normal because Canadian customers have recognized lobsters are on discount, on sale. Our European, Asia and Middle East customers haven’t recognized that. They still think there are further price reductions,” said Lamont.

“I compare lobster to a confidence, game. When there’s a lot of confidence, lobsters are worth what we claim they are worth any given day. There’s been less confidence in the value of a lobster this spring than any time I can think of in the past 20 years. From a dealers’ standpoint, it’s been challenging. They’ve been struggling to move lobsters period, much less at a profit. It will cause everybody to take a bit of time and try and see how this works going forward if we have these catches and this reluctant a market,” said Lamont. “I think we have to build back trust and build back value in the product. I’m confident we will but it may not happen right away.”