GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 5, 2012

Cape Ann celebrating Lobster Day with lower prices

Saturday is Lobster Day and crustaceans are cheap

By Richard Gaines Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — Gov. Deval Patrick has declared Saturday to be Massachusetts Lobster Day, to the pleasure of local dealers and restaurants on Cape Ann and statewide.

Lobster specials have been either promised or announced at many local restaurants.

Here in Gloucester, the No. 1 port for lobster landings within Massachusetts, some local dealers have chosen to cut prices. Lobster prices have been at a modern-day low throughout a season, that due to warm water, has produced a glut of lobsters and this is the height of the season.

Other dealers applaud the celebration but, like Vince Mortillaro of Mortillaro’s Lobster Co. on Commercial Street, have said that prices are so ridiculously low already they cannot cut prices ever further.

Soft shells have been selling for $3.99 a pound since the start of summer.

Hard shell lobsters are priced around $5 a pound.

“We have had tremendous supply,” said Ken Porter, the owner of Roy Moore Lobster Co. of Rockport. “The best year in the last 25 to 30.”

But that great supply for dealers isn’t translating to working capital for many local lobstermen.

Lobsterman Tony Gross said the low prices are an almost impossible handicap to overcome. “You just hope the volume makes up for the price,” he said.

The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association reports there are 1,245 lobster permits issued by the state for commercial fishing in state waters. Lobsters are landed in 52 ports in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts lobsters fetched $54.6 million at the boat in 2011, about one-sixth of the total paid for Maine lobsters. Only Maine exceeds Massachusetts as a lobster-producing state.

Many Massachusetts lobstermen “are voluntarily” labeling their catch with specially marked green claw bands that say “Massachusetts.”

The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association said the industry was worth about $250 million based on the multiplier effect.

“In the state’s territorial waters, approximately 300,000 traps are fished by commercial lobstermen,” said the association in a press release. “Another 86,948 traps are fished by Massachusetts fishermen just outside the state’s waters using federal licenses.

“These numbers represent a relatively stable number of traps fished over the past five to six year,” the association said.

It also notes with pride that “Massachusetts lobstermen have removed 3,000 miles of floating rope from the water column since switching to sinking ground line to reduce the risk of entanglements ... of minke, humpback, finback and North Atlantic right whales.”

“Massachusetts is the first and only state to require year-round use of sinking groundline in all state waters,” the association said.

Richard Gaines may be contacted 978-283-7000 x3464 or rgaines@gloucestertimes.com.