Lobster Bailout


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
January 25, 2009

In a span of less than two years the live lobster market saw ridiculous highs - wholesale prices peaked at about $14 a pound two winters ago - and unfortunate lows that one could only hope were rock bottom (dock prices around $2 a pound). The obstacles facing fishermen during these lean economic times have been well documented, but the situation is not much different for many seafood suppliers, some of which need help now.


Fishing communities worldwide are struggling to maintain their heritage and pass their livelihoods on to future generations, but they can often rely on a little help during a rough patch. For example, Maryland watermen last week were given $10 million in disaster assistance due to declining blue crab harvests, in addition to $3 million in capital funding. It may not be much, but it's something. It should be noted that Chesapeake blue crab harvests have been declining over the course of many years.

You have to wonder who's looking out for seafood suppliers, though. When times get unexpectedly tough, what kind of help can they expect? Some are about to find out.

Last week, the Seafood Processors Association of Prince Edward Island said it was seeking government help to deal with a surplus of frozen lobster valued at CAD 25 million (USD 20.2 million). It's unclear as to what kind of help the group is seeking, but one assumes it to be a financial package or some low-interest loans. The suppliers hope to be financially sound enough to afford this spring's catch (although there are serious questions regarding whether there will be much to buy in the first place).

The inert inventory up north is just the latest domino to fall since the economy went south, leaving many consumers unable to afford lobsters, regardless of the market price.

Canada is the world's No. 1 American lobster supplier. Its industry typically brings in millions in revenue and employs thousands of people, many of whom don't work on fishing vessels. The entire supply chain is important to the national economy and the global seafood supply. But these times are not typical. I fear that, as push comes to shove and all the available dollars are counted, these companies - and the people who work for them - will have to fend for themselves.  

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