PORTLAND — Lobster prices dip somewhat just before Memorial Day weekend — the unofficial start of the industry’s critical summer season.
The price of lobster and seafood in general has skyrocketed in recent years, and the price to lobster fishermen at the docks has increased by about 60% last year. But lobster prices appear to be stabilizing and some retailers are selling the valuable shellfish for a few dollars less than last year.
Industry members said the price for fishermen is also falling at a time when they grapple with high bait and fuel prices and expensive conversations about gear to protect rare whales.
“And that’s why it’s hard – if bait and fuel were up and the price of lobsters was up, you’d be where you always are,” said Kristan Porter, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. . “But with those down, it’s hard to justify going in.”
The wholesale price for a 1.25 pound hard-shell live lobster rose from $12.35 on April 1 to $9.35 on May 1, trade publishing company Urner Barry reported this week. Lobster prices typically fall from April to May, but this year’s price drop was the biggest since 2018.
Wholesale lobster prices have been abnormally high for nearly a year, but this month’s price drop brings prices closer to historical norms. Some retailers such as Harbor Fish, a seafood market in Portland, are selling one-pound live lobsters for $12 a pound, down $2 from 2021 now.
Lobster prices are trending down slightly at a time when many food staples are increasingly expensive as the United States faces inflation. The drop in prices could reflect lower demand amid concerns about the economy as a whole, said John Sackton, industry analyst and founder of SeafoodNews.com.
“It’s discretionary, and everything you see on discretionary spending, people are cutting back,” Sackton said. “People’s disposable income is falling.”
Lobster fishing activity generally picks up in the summer when many lobsters shed their shells and reach legal harvest size. Consumer prices usually fall when this happens due to increased supply, although last year they remained quite high.
American industry is based in New England, particularly Maine. State lobster fishermen had a solid year in 2021, when they caught more than 108 million pounds of lobsters valued at a state record of over $730 million.