$18 a pound? Why lobster prices in N.S. are hitting near record levels

Click to play video: 'Lobster season kicks off in southwestern N.S. after week-long delay'
Lobster season kicks off in southwestern N.S. after week-long delay
RELATED - After nearly a week delay in the lobster season due to weather, fishermen in southwestern Nova Scotia will finally hit the water early on Saturday morning. As a shorter season kicks off, workers will be scrambling to meet their quota for the year. Zack Power has more. – Dec 1, 2023

Lobsters in southwestern Nova Scotia are selling at the highest price seen so far this season, as fishermen struggle with high overhead costs and a lower catch rate than in previous years.

Tommy Amirault, president of the Coldwater Lobster Association, said the current going price for lobster is about $18 a pound.

“This is definitely higher than average,” he said, attributing the high asking price to limited supply combined with high demand, colder water temperatures, and minimal catches.

“This year’s been slower. Catch rates were slower, it’s been a bit trickier season. The water was colder at the bottom when we started and that in turn makes the lobsters a little bit harder to catch.”

In comparison, Amirault, who works out of Pubnico in Yarmouth County, said although it’s difficult to gauge a “typical price” for this time of year — he noted it wouldn’t be uncommon to see prices set at $14 or $15 in previous years.

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“I don’t want to use the term ‘unprecedented’, but it (the price) is definitely high,” he said.

The southwestern Nova Scotia area is said to be home to one of the country’s most lucrative commercial fisheries. The municipality of Barrington is referred to as the “Lobster Capital of Canada.”

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“The lobster fishing grounds off Barrington’s shores are amongst the richest in the world and lobster has been the economic backbone of communities in this area since the 1800’s,” read a blurb from the Nova Scotia website.

“They even build a Christmas tree out of lobster traps during the holidays.”

As of Friday morning, Clearwater Seafoods, a seafood retailer in Nova Scotia, has its premium live lobster priced at $19.25 a pound.

‘Fighting the fight’

Despite the recent challenges locating a sustainable amount of lobster, Amirault noted that higher prices do allow fishermen to temporarily operate on a smaller quantity. But that can only keep operations afloat for so long.

“You can’t work on minimal numbers … we’re dealing with high fuel prices, the high price of supplies, labour force, we’re very similar to farmers or truckers. We’re dealing with all the same factors,” he said, noting that all of these factors are taken into consideration when determining the price of lobster.

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He said it’s encouraging that prices haven’t tampered with regular demand, adding that a slightly higher market price could also be considered a positive due to how many Nova Scotians are employed by the seafood industry.

“If the price is high and the market can sustain it, to me that’s a good news story for everybody in Nova Scotia where the seafood industry is one of the biggest employers and one of the biggest players and is vitally important in the tax base,” Amirault said.

“But it still needs to make economic sense.”

Looking ahead, he said the average cost of lobster should decrease as water temperature increases and weather conditions improve.

“As the spring progresses, usually catch rates come up. People are more active, the weather is better, people are fishing more, and the price comes down,” Amirault noted, saying he’s optimistic that prices will drop in the coming months.

Until then, he said his team of fishermen will continue “fighting the fight” of high costs that are challenging other food producers across the country.

“We’re extremely close to what farmers do, small independent-owned, good one year, bad the other … it’s really hard to determine what’s going to come next,” he said.

“This year it’s been one of those years.”


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