Last year gave Maine lobstermen plenty to celebrate as they pocketed a record $456.9 million, a 23 percent increase over the 2013 season. The revenue boost came despite a decline in the catch, which fell from 127 million pounds in 2013 to 123 million pounds last year.
Since the 1990s, the lobster fishery has experienced a boom as catches have grown and the value fishermen have netted for the catch has increased. In 1994, Maine lobstermen hauled 38.9 million pounds of lobster, valued at $100 million.
University of Maine research professor Richard Wahle told Business Insider writer Cody Sullivan earlier this week that the an “oceanic heat wave” has led to the recent success of the lobster fishery as warmer ocean temperatures caused lobsters to molt earlier in the year.
But colder ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Maine last year led to a decrease in the number of lobsters caught — although the more valuable hardshell lobster was more prevalent — and, after the harsh winter that gripped the Northeast, those colder temperatures are likely to hang around, Sullivan wrote.
As a result, “the price [of lobster] is on the rise again because this year’s harsh winter around New England dropped ocean temperatures around Maine to the lower end of the lobster comfort zone.”
The colder temperatures may delay when lobsters molt, Sullivan noted, “so fishermen aren’t pulling nearly as many lobsters in their traps as usual.”
So instead of molting twice, as lobsters will in a normal year, Sullivan wrote, the cold temperatures may delay and reduce “it [to] a one-molt season,” University of Maine professor Bob Steneck said.
What does this mean for lobster lovers out there? Well, that may mean forking over a little extra — or, maybe, clawing a little bit more out of the wallet — for lobster bakes and lobster rolls.
Sullivan explains: “That creates a nasty case of supply and demand for lobster lovers. Until more lobsters molt, the supply will remain low, but people will still want their lobster bakes and lobster rolls. The price is already $1 to $2 more expensive per pound than last year.”
Read more about why consumer prices for lobster will be higher this year at Business Insider’s website.