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LOBSTER OUTLOOK: Market conditions prime for Canadian lobster

Lobster cars – used to store lobster catches during the season – are towed to the Lower East Pubnico wharf in early November by the Blake & Jorgia, with fishermen in an outboard leading the way. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO
Lobster cars – used to store lobster catches during the season – are towed to the Lower East Pubnico wharf in early November by the Blake & Jorgia, with fishermen in an outboard leading the way. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO - Kathy Johnson

SOUTHWESTERN NS – Market conditions for live lobster exports appear to be prime heading into the season opening for LFAs 33 and 34.

Export markets to Europe and China are strong, as is the U.S. economy. Add to that stable exchange rates and what’s predicted to be at least an average demand from processors, “I think we’re looking at a relatively healthy season in the fall,” said John Sackton, founder of seafood.com at this fall’s SWNS Lobster Forum in Yarmouth.

Lobster fishermen Sean Mills (left) and Ed LeBlanc carry coils of rope to the pot pile on the Lower East Pubnico wharf earlier this month. KATHY JOHNSON
Lobster fishermen Sean Mills (left) and Ed LeBlanc carry coils of rope to the pot pile on the Lower East Pubnico wharf earlier this month. KATHY JOHNSON

Sackton, who was the keynote speaker at the September forum, spoke of U.S. trade issues, how they are impacting the North America lobster industry and gave an in-depth look at North American lobster landings and global market conditions over the past few years.

“The U.S. trade policy disaster has been a gift to Canadian shippers” he said, helping to make Canada the preferred supplier for the Chinese market and reducing American competition. The CETA (Canada European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), introduced last year has made Canada the primary supplier to Europe, with the elimination of tariffs on live lobster and lobster products continuing to be phased out over the next few years.

Sackton said the supply of lobster to China increased substantially in 2017, and “is not slowing.” He cautioned, however, too high a price will “grind that market to a halt.”

“It’s very important to maintain the supply into China,” he said.

Globally, the lobster supply decreased for the first time in many years in 2017, due in part to the decrease in U.S. landings of 20 to 30 million pounds, said Sackton. The higher prices that fishermen were getting in the fall of 2017 and coming into 2018 was in part because there was less lobster available overall, he said.

John Sackton, speaking at a 2018 lobster forum in Yarmouth, N.S. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
John Sackton, speaking at a 2018 lobster forum in Yarmouth, N.S. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

The high prices in 2017 slowed the market this past spring because many sellers and packers were losing money but had averaged out over the summer months, said Sackton. A glut on whole cooked lobsters had also improved, and the market on frozen lobster tails is strong.

“Processors are going to be very cautious,” he advised. “They can’t afford to repeat the mistake they made with whole cooks. Because whole cooks were the weakest part of the market last spring that’s why processors were paying lower prices in the Gulf. This year they are getting a much better return on lobster tails. The tail market is the only place processors can make money. Nobody’s making money on lobster meat right now. I think they will be buying more but they’re not going to speculate and go crazy like they did in 2016 with whole cooks.”

Sackton said the U.S. continues to be the largest live lobster market for the southwestern Nova Scotia lobster fishery.


DID YOU KNOW? Lobster Facts....

Canadian Atlantic Lobster are truly fascinating creatures. Here are some interesting facts that you may, or may not, know about this charismatic crustacean.

Shelburne County fisherman Colin Watt offloads lobster traps at the Shelburne Marine Terminal. The six-month commercial lobster fishery in southwestern Nova Scotia opens on Nov. 26, weather permitting. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO
Shelburne County fisherman Colin Watt offloads lobster traps at the Shelburne Marine Terminal. The six-month commercial lobster fishery in southwestern Nova Scotia opens on Nov. 26, weather permitting. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO

Hard shelled versus soft shelled: Since the Atlantic Lobster must moult – shed its shell – in order to grow, it will display a thinner softer shell after it has moulted. In Canada, the lobster season is staggered around the summer moulting period and the majority of Canadian Atlantic Lobster are harvested hard-shelled.

Moulting: This is done through out the life of the lobster to enable it to grow. During its first year a lobster will moult as many as 10 times. Lobsters will continue to moult approximately once a year until maturity. Older lobsters may moult only once every two to three years.

Regenerating limbs: Lobsters can regenerate appendages lost to predation. This would include their claws, legs, antennules and antennae. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, lobsters will also drop a claw.

Lobster teeth: Lobsters do have teeth, however, instead of being found in the mouth they are found in the stomach.

Steam scream: The Atlantic Lobster does not have any vocal cords and contrary to rumour it does not scream. The sound heard when boiling lobster is only the steam escaping from the shell.

Growth chart: It takes a lobster around six to eight years to reach a market weight of approximately one pound. Lobsters grow quicker in warmer water and can achieve market weights in less time.


    READ MORE OF OUR LOBSTER OUTLOOK STORIES:

• Largest lobster fishing season opens in southwestern Nova Scotia next week

• SAR resources will be in place for lobster season opening in southwestern N.S.  

• Barrington’s lobster pot tree celebrates the season and tells the story of the sea

• TINA COMEAU: Families on shore and at sea – the personal side of the industry

• Plastic lobster traps boost longevity, says Yarmouth developer

Southwestern N.S. lobster fishermen asked: ‘Are you ready?’ as focus is on safety heading into the season

A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. Has diversified its products but lobster boats remain at the core of the business

Smooth sailing, rough weather and you’re paying what? A look at past season starts in southwestern NS

• ‘It’s been an interesting life’: Cape Sable Island fisherman reflects on decades of fishing

• Testing the Nova Scotia waters with ropeless gear

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