Fla. Lobstermen Worry About Low Prices, Demand

While Tropical Storm Fay in late August helped stir up lobster landings around the Florida Keys, fishermen are now concerned about deflated prices and lower exports.

The season opened Aug. 6 and runs through March 31.

"There is plenty of product available, but the prices are a bit too deflated to handle operating costs," says Scott Zimmerman, president of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association in Marathon, Fla. In addition to fuel, lobster fisheries have seen price hikes for wood traps and extruded plastic for funnels.

Meanwhile, the industry is suffering from lower foreign demand than last year, pushing Florida Keys' dock prices down to around $6.50 a pound, says Gary Graves, executive manager of Keys Fisheries Market & Marina in Marathon.

"Demand overseas is much lower. Lobster got very expensive over the last couple of years and the consuming public - whether in China, Japan or Spain - didn't buy it," says Graves. In addition, the value of the U.S. dollar is stronger than last year, he says, making it more difficult for foreign buyers to purchase product.

Meanwhile, Florida lobster landings at the start of the season are on par with last year, which averaged about 5 million pounds for the entire season.

"Most of the boats have done very well. I think we're about the same as last year," says Graves.

In addition, while a few fishermen lost some of their traps during Tropical Storm Fay, most benefited from the storm.

"The weather was very good. It got the lobster moving from whatever habitat they are in," says Zimmerman.

New size restrictions, currently under review by South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, are also expected to help the Florida lobster industry.

"Before, those babies didn't have a chance to spawn. This is going to dramatically enhance the catch of our lobster," says Zimmerman.


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