Supply and wharf price mark first month of lobster fishery
By Tina Comeau
There’s never a lobster season in southwestern N.S. that goes by without some kind of a challenge and in the opening weeks of the fishery it’s been squeezing out a supply to send to market. “The buyers that I’ve talked to – the ones that export and do freight exports to Europe and supply the United States – have said in most cases they just haven’t had the supply to give the market what it wants at the price that it wants,” said Denny Morrow, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association. “It’s kind of a new game this year. We haven’t had a year like this for a while, so people were kind of scrambling with it.”
The season off Yarmouth, Shelburne and Digby counties got off to a late start at the end of November as strong-to-gale-force winds kept boats idle for most of the opening week.
The weather has continued to be a factor over the past couple of weeks, particularly the week before Christmas, although Morrow said he and others can’t help but wonder whether there is more at play than just the weather when it comes to catches. “We say it’s the weather but we know we’ve been fishing the bottom harder and harder every year,” he said.
This month fishermen sat out two Sundays as an initiative decided on before the season to try and spread out the catch – although on at least one of those Sundays, without this initiative, they would have likely had to stay home anyway because of winds.
Like most years, there has been price instability at the wharf. The season started out around $4.50 to $4.75, and by Dec. 15 the price had risen to about $6 a pound. “As the price is changing every few days on the wharf, the message to the fishermen is to continue holding for higher and higher prices, and for buyers it’s a very unstable situation, it’s hard to make deals with people,” said Morrow.
He added that processors have gotten little lobster, perhaps one-fifth of what they received last year. “The price is too high for them to process lobsters at $6 a pound,” he said. “It’s about yield…you put 12 ounces or a pound of lobster in a pack, you need three of them to make it. Then you’ve got to pay your workers, your overhead, your inventory costs and trucking and marketing to get rid of the product.”
On the other hand, the currency exchange hasn’t yet had the dire impact many worried it would. That’s because instead of a Canadian dollar being valued at $1.10 compared to its United States counterpart, it’s been more at par.
Meanwhile after getting lobsters to the Christmas and New Year’s markets, the challenge for the industry will be to have enough inventory to carry it through to the spring.