, Gloucester, MA

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July 11, 2012

Lobster prices hitting new lows

Dock figures well below lobstermen's 'break-even' need

Prices paid to local lobstermen have hit a record low for this time of year -- even as the catch has hit record highs.

The hefty harvests in June fell prey to the laws of the marketplace:

Boat prices dropped, with Monday’s $2.75-per-pound at the docks equaling a low in 2009, although that $2.75 came in August ,when higher demand from processors drove down the price, said experts.

Processors are not buying here yet, and for July, the price is the lowest in at least five years, according to Bill Adler, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association in Scituate. That’s an alarm for fishermen, who need $4 a pound to break even, he added.

Yet, what “should be,” as Adler put it, a lure for consumers to buy the crustaceans in Gloucester is not necessarily so.

Some dealers and grocers offer bargains; many have not changed at all, pricing their lobsters at three, nearly four times what the fishermen are paid per pound. Restaurant prices, in general, have not fluctuated, either.

Because of unusually warm water in the spring, landings of new-shell lobsters, which are too vulnerable to ship long distances but make up perhaps half a catch, came early – too early for the tourist trade that generally gobbles them up, said Adler of the Lobstermen’s Association. “Softies can be eaten just with your hands, and taste great, very sweet,” said Adler.

The boon catch was also too early for purchases by the large processors in Canada, who like the soft shells but have inventory brimming with frozen hard shells to sell in bulk to casinos and cruise ships later in the year.

“The processors haven’t even called,” he said.

Adler suggested that a painful $2.75 might bring in the big boys from the north, somewhat easing the immediate glut.

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