GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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June 28, 2008

Lobstermen gripe about low 'boat price'

"The numbers tell it all," said local lobsterman Michael Polisson.

Those numbers are the lobster boat prices from Connecticut to downeast Maine, made available weekly by the North Atlantic Lobster Coalition. The "boat price" is the price that dealers pay fishermen for their lobsters.

Polisson and many of his Cape Ann peers have pondered why their Cape Ann/North Shore boat price has lately been one of the lowest, if not the lowest, when it once was one of the highest — and who sets it in town? Furthermore, Polisson asks, "If the dealers can pay 75 cents to $1 a pound over what they pay their own fishermen for Maine and Canadian lobsters delivered to their doors, why can't they pay us the same price for the same quality lobsters — and our stuff hasn't been beaten, stressed and shipped?"

Many Gloucester dealers regularly buy Maine and Canadian lobsters to fill their orders. Many Cape Ann lobstermen feel if other ports can pay the price, so should Cape Ann/North Shore.

That common 25-50 cents-per-pound difference would add up at year's end to hundreds, if not thousands, of needed extra dollars in their pockets. Area lobstermen find themselves today paying more for bait, gear and fuel, while their boat price hasn't kept up with the costs.

"We can't pass our costs on to anyone," said one fisherman.

Most also believe Ipswich Shellfish Company has lately had the most influence on their boat price, and the often skimpy price has not only been helping to pay its commission to a Gloucester dealership that acts as its buying station, but also has been giving Ipswich and most of the other eight to 10 major dealers in town an added profit margin and selling advantage in today's very competitive domestic and overseas live lobster marketing. Unless obligated by dealer dockage, area lobstermen have the option to sell to whomever they want.

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