Shells still soft, but lobster price strong

MOUNT DESERT — After waiting out a long, cold spring and early summer, it looks like Hancock County lobstermen are starting to rock and roll.

According to a lobster dealer on Mount Desert Island, the run of shedders, or new shell lobsters, has begun in earnest. His buying operation just had its first 100-crate (about 9,000 pounds) day last week.

“They’re definitely coming in,” he said.

“The fishermen should be pretty happy,” he added. “They’re getting $4 [per pound] for paper-thin shedders.”

Just how strong the fishery is depends on whom you ask and where they’re located.

Down East, things are “kind of on the slow side,” according to William “Bimbo” Look of OW & BS Look in Jonesport.

Although lobster production has begun to pick up “way up in the inlets” in recent weeks, Look said the recent high run tides have kept the lobsters from moving out into the bay. That should change as the tides diminish and the lobsters start to move into deeper water.

“At least we hope so,” he said.

Quality has been a problem so far this season too. Look said most of the lobsters coming onto the dock so far have been very soft and thin-shelled. That is likely to continue for a couple of weeks after the lobsters move down into the outer bays.

“Right now, in my opinion, it is processing lobster, not something that would entice someone on the plate,” Look said. “Down East, what we would call it is ‘garbage’.”

It’s expensive garbage, though. Look said lobstermen were getting paid $4 per pound for their landings.

“It’s a damn good price.”

Around Stonington, the catch is still slow, about 10 days to two weeks behind last year’s, according to Hugh Reynolds of Greenhead Lobster. Still, Reynolds said the volume should be about the same as a year ago.

The price remains high. Greenhead is paying fishermen $4 per pound “all in,” meaning there is no holdback or bonus to be paid later in the year.

Like farther Down East, quality is a problem. Reynolds said 50 to 60 percent of the lobster landings so far have been “processor grade.” The market for claw and knuckle meat is very strong, he said, but a question remains as to how strong the demand for tail meat will be.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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