Canada-China lobster charter takes flight, possibly threatening Maine exports

Published on
January 30, 2017

The first shipment of live lobster carried by a special chartered plane arrived nonstop from Halifax, Canada on 9 January in Zhengzhou, China.

The National Airlines 747 flight was chartered by a Canadian company owned by Chinese fishing giant Forever Fishing. It is the first in a newly established route that will bring “Boston lobster” to China, with delivery channels to markets in Guangzhou, Fujian, Shanghai, Shandong and other provinces and cities, according to the Stat Times.

Additional flights from Halifax touched down in Zhengzhou on 14 and 21 January, toting hundreds of thousands of pounds of “Boston lobster,” the common term in China for North American lobster. The article reports, “It is understood that these Boston lobster are from Canada.”

The article describes Boston lobster meat from Canada as “more tender and detailed…the product has a variety of trace elements rich and delicious.”

The article also reports that Zhengzhou Airport saw cargo arrivals increase by 13 percent in 2016, reaching 456,700 tons, including a rising amount of seafood.

On 28 January, the Portland Press Herald reported it is still too early to determine the impact the new charter flights are having on the lobster industry in Maine, which is already competing against a weak Canadian dollar and a USD 1 (EUR 0.94) per pound tariff advantage.

The newspaper reported that, despite the competition, Maine’s lobster sales to China are booming, having grown from USD 10.2 million (EUR 9.6 million) from January through November 2015 to USD 27.5 million (25.8 million) in the 12 months ending in November 2016.

While most China-bound lobsters caught in Maine waters are shipped through Boston’s Logan Airport, there is a grassroots effort to export lobsters out of Bangor International Airport, though building out the infrastructure required for such an endeavor will likely take four to five years.

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