It looks as though lobster landings have been holding their own for the first two weeks of the season, with estimates that the catch is on par with last year in Shelburne County.
“We’re seeing about the same as last year,” said Clark’s Harbour lobster buyer Gary Blades. “Some fishermen are up, some are down.”
For many fishermen the first hauling day of the season didn’t come until Nov. 30, after traps were dumped on Nov. 28. This was due to gale force winds on Nov. 29. The season opening had also been delayed by a day. After that, for the most part, the weather was cooperative.
“They have had pretty good weather since, it’s definitely been in their favour,“ said Steven Atkinson, manager at Atksym Fisheries in Woods Harbour. He said while the landings were “really strong starting off,” the full tides and full moon the second week of the season “dropped the catches fairly quick.”
“But it’s still up quite a bit so I would say overall they are doing good,” he said.
Quality-wise, Blades said while there have been some soft-shelled lobsters in the catch, it has been steadily improving.
“I would say the quality is there,” added Atkinson. “There’s all kinds around and everyone’s looking to buy and move them.”
The opening shore price was set at $5.75, just short of the hoped for $6 a pound that fishermen would have liked to have seen. With the Canadian dollar trading at 78 cents with the American dollar last week, this bodes well for a strong shore price throughout the season.
The U.S. continues to be the largest customer for the lobster industry, with a total export value of $1.5 billion in 2016, according to statistics from the Lobster Council of Canada. The total value of Canadian lobster exports in 2016 topped $2.15 billion.
As for other markets, indications are conditions are good. The duty-free tariff on live lobster exports to Europe that took started Sept. 21 under the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is expected to increase export demand during the holiday season. Previously, live lobster exports into Europe carried an eight per cent tariff. Under CETA, tariffs on frozen and processed lobster will also be phased out over the next three to five years.
In 2016 more than $404 million in exports, mainly consisting of seafood, totalling over 33,000 metric tonnes was shipped from Halifax Stanfield International Airport, said Nicole Scaplen, marketing and communications manager for the airport. Scaplen said the airport is “gearing up for the same strong performance” this holiday season with additional cargo flights going into Europe and Asia.