YARMOUTH, N.S. – Lobster fishermen in southwest Nova Scotia closed their fishing season with some of the best prices in a decade and catches that rival last year’s haul, thanks to burgeoning markets in Asia and robust stocks, the head of a fishing group said Wednesday.
Bernie Berry, president of the Coldwater Lobster Association, said boats from fishing area 34 tied up at midnight with a closing price of $6 a pound — the same as when the season opened on the last Monday in November. Berry said the price rose to a high of $10 a pound and then dipped as availability increased.
He said early indications are that catches could rival last year’s haul of 55 million pounds for that area, which stretches from Shelburne to Digby counties and valued its catch last year at about $350 million.
“It was a good season — catches were good, the price was up and was probably the best price probably since 2006 or 2007,” he said.
“It seems like there’s a massive demand out there. You almost can’t keep up with the market.”
Berry attributes the good catches to favourable weather, the low Canadian dollar, affordable fuel prices and burgeoning markets in Asia. He says demand has gone up dramatically in recent years, so much so that fishermen say they are almost having trouble meeting the demands of the growing appetite for the crustaceans, particularly in China.
The demand for lobster in Asian countries has risen sharply in the last four years, he said, making the region one of the biggest consumers of the delicacy.
“Now I don’t know if you can catch enough lobsters to satisfy the markets there — China’s exploding,” he said.
He said the industry is seeing European countries boost their buying power after years of constraint following the global economic downturn, along with U.S. buyers who still make up the largest market for Maritime lobster.
Berry said that is in stark contrast to opening prices of about $3 a pound just six years ago when there was a glut of lobster and diminished demand.
He expects that the catch total for his area and adjoining fishing area 33 could be about 75 million pounds, but final numbers won’t likely be known until the fall. There are 700 licence holders in area 33 and 950 in 34.
“It looks like it will be another banner season and could be close to record catches or beyond,” he said.
He said the success of the fishery can be felt in the shoreline communities, with some seeing a boon in everything from boat building to home renovations.
“How the lobster season goes is how the local economy goes,” he said, adding that orders for new boats are backed up five years.
— By Alison Auld in Halifax