Looks like it's going to be another hard season for lobstermen and good season for lobster eaters this summer. Although wholesale market prices for live lobsters are up from last year, they haven't rebounded significantly. Market prices in Boston range from $4.00 to $4.75 for hardshells and $3.25 to $3.75 for softshells and culls (lobsters with just one claw.) And, while the Boston Market Report indicates that supply is light and demand moderate, the pressure still hasn't forced prices higher
This kind of low price is mixed news for diners and tourists in Massachusetts and Maine. I was down to Maine this past weekend, and most lobster pounds were selling live bugs for $4.99 a pound from Kittery to Kennebunk (the price was slightly higher along the New Hampshire coast and the North Shore of Massachusetts, but not much.) Lobster dinners were the same price they've been in awile, though, holding at about $20 for "twin lobsters." And lobster rolls were also holding steady from last year at $8.99 to $9.99 with a few places as low as $7.99.
Fuel prices are rising again after a brief respite, and bait prices haven't eased off either. Couple that with maintenance and repair costs to boats and equipment, and a dock price of $4.00 or so a pound doesn't leave much for a lobsterman to live on. In some places, lobstermen are selling bugs directly to the public at the docks to cut out the middleman and try to squeeze a few more dollars out of a tight market.
Of course, low lobster prices won't sell more bugs if there aren't tourists to buy them. Coming up on 4th of July like we are, I expected bigger crowds along the shore than we saw last weekend. Traffic, often bumper-to-bumper and moving at a snail's pace on US1 this time of year, was thick but not unmanagable even thrugh traditional bottlenecks like Ogunquit. And there were a lot of commercial buildings and businesses closed, for lease, or for sale as we traveled up through York, Wells, Kennebunk, and Biddeford, and lots of "VACANCY" signs lit up on the motels and cabins there. Let's hope tourism picks up as we go into July.
Links and More Info:
Maine Lobster Industry Still Hurting, by Sandra Dinsmore at The Working Waterfront newsletter online
Deperate Maine Lobstermen Sell From Trucks, Homes - Associated Press hosted by Google News