Lobster pots fill the deck of a fishing vessel at the Clark’s Harbour wharf, with lobster cars in the middle of the harbour providing a platform for more traps and lobster ‘hotels.’ Kathy Johnson photo

Lobster fishermen in lobster fishing areas (LFA) 33 and 34 were fetching $13/pound for their catch in late February.

“We are nearing a record price for the product right now,” said Bernie Berry, president of the Coldwater Lobster Association. “There’s not a lot of product around. Usually, this time of the year buyers, even fishermen would still have a lot of product on hand. Not this year mainly because of what happened last year.”

Last year, lobster buyers and fishermen had ample inventory on hand when COVID-19 struck, plummeting the price from $10.50 to $4/pound.

“Where we were at this time last year was $4 because of COVID and a lot of talk of can we or should we finish the spring and lot of talk everywhere even down east, they weren’t sure if they were going to be able to set, so a dramatic improvement from last year,” said Berry.

“We’re nearing the end of February and there is very, very little inventory on hand. Fresh-caughts are in the door and out the door in several days so hopefully that bodes well for a decent price all spring.”

Going into February, the shore price in southwestern Nova Scotia was in the $8.50/pound range, rising to $11, $12 then $13 on Feb. 18.

“I don’t know if the market is going to be able to stand $13,” said Lockeport lobster buyer Mike Cotter of Cotter’s Ocean Products. “There’s been a little opening in the U.S. in the last week or so. California opened up quite heavy with a demand for lobsters and China is still taking. I don’t know how long they will keep taking once the Chinese New Year is over, but they are still taking.”

With winter weather set in and dropping water temperatures, landings are down but “not as bad as what you would anticipate,” said Cotter, adding fishermen in his area are probably only getting out once a week and landing anywhere from 200 to 500 pounds. “They still get a good week’s work,” he said.

Traditionally some lobster fishermen in LFAs 33 and 34 will land their gear for the winter months and wait until spring before setting again. Not this year, said Cotter.

“With the price, the catches being halfway decent, nobody has landed nothing this year,” said Cotter. “Down on Cape Island, some of the guys who landed their gear are putting it back it out now because of the price… I think everybody’s doing halfway decent. It’s not a season like last year.”

With light landings being reported, Berry said fishermen are hopeful the price would hold throughout March. “It doesn’t take a lot of lobster to make some money,” he said.

While good fishing weather in January made up for some of the lost fishing time in December, most notably an eight-day delay in the LFA 34 season start, Berry said landings are estimated to be down 15 to 20 per cent.

Other LFAs in the Bay of Fundy have opened over the past month, including LFA 38 on Feb. 28 and LFA 36/37 on March 31.