Landings projected to be as much as 35 per cent higher than 2011
© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
A fisherman throws a bouy onto is traps as he loads his boat.
Prince Edward Island has fished a record haul of lobster this year with some estimating the seafood king landings will be as much as 35 per cent higher than 2011.
That kind of increase is one of the factors causing some of the weakest lobster prices in years for Maine fishermen, says Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources in Maine. As well, it has helped to create a lack of demand by Canadian processors to import Maine lobster.
“That figure seems huge,” said Ian MacPherson, general manager of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association in response to the claims from south of the border. “We have had a strong year but I think 35 per cent is over the top.
Keliher was commenting this week about the situation of low prices in his home state when he made the reference. Maine fishermen are tying up their boats after prices have dipped to below $2 a pound.
‘’We’re getting a double-whammy this year,” Keliher is quoted.
“Prince Edward Island had a 35 per cent catch increase over last year for hard shells and had early shedding. That’s one thing. Second, our summer fishery started the end of May, not July (and) there is a glut of product.”
MacPherson said many Island harbours are up this year in overall catches, but he didn’t have any final numbers yet. Unofficial estimates are hovering around the 23 million pound mark, which would surpass the 22.9 million record set in 2009.
P.E.I. Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley has confirmed to fishermen the spring lobster catch is up at least 20 per cent. The 2011 catch was 20.7 million pounds. Meanwhile prices, while poor in the past, have inched their way north of $3.50 to $4 a pound.
Seafood.com says Keliher refused a request by lobstermen for a state of emergency fishery closure due to the low prices. The commissioner also warned harvesters, says the website, not to create a defacto shut down by threatening to cut trap lines of those who fished.
Maine lobster is beginning to arrive on P.E.I. for processing — but at bargain basement prices.
‘’No one wants to see anyone get a low price, but if it’s for sale, you buy it,’’ said one processor privately.
Some lobster was being sold for processing south of the border for as little as $1 a pound.
‘’Maine has had a good catch year as well,” said MacPherson. ‘’They hope the tourist market will absorb much of the back log.’’
The glut of soft shelled lobster is due to the warmer water this year which pushed the Maine spring fishery ahead earlier than usual. The soft shelled lobster (shedders) being caught now will become hard shelled in a few short weeks.