Florida lobstermen hoping for "normal season with good pricing"
Last year’s spiny lobster season in the U.S. state of Florida was extremely poor, with low production and low early-season boat prices that only rebounded in the winter when the crustaceans were scarce.
Despite that, Florida’s seafood dealers and fishermen remain optimistic that the 2021-2022 season, which opens in August and runs through March, will return to average harvest levels of between 5.5 million and six million pounds.
“[Last year], the price started terrible. The catch wasn’t good. By the time the price came up, there wasn’t much catch. But we’re hopeful this year,” said Mimi Stafford, who runs a small fleet of lobster boats and 2,700 traps with her husband and son in the lower Florida Keys. “We wouldn’t be in the fishery if we weren’t eternal optimists.”
According to state commercial landings data, only about 3.5 million pounds of lobster tails were harvested in 2020, with an average boat price of about USD 7.00 (EUR 5.91). Landings for 2021, which are still incomplete, show about 350,000 pounds with an average price of more than USD 11.50 (EUR 9.71), owing to a surge in purchase of live product by Chinese buyers for that nation’s New Year celebration.
“Production-wise, we’re way off,” said Gary Graves, who operates Keys Fisheries – a restaurant, market and wholesaler in Marathon, Florida. “The season was horrible. Is it water quality? Is it the storms that destroyed the habitat? I’ve been doing this 50 years. This year, we’re looking forward to a normal season with good pricing. There’s a shortage of lobster around the world and prices should be good.”
Graves said his restaurant is enjoying its best year ever now that COVID-related restrictions have been lifted in Florida.
Reporting by Sue Cocking
Photo courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife photo/Dan Ellinor