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It’s been a better season for lobster fishermen in southwestern Nova Scotia when it comes to the shore price they’re being paid and while the industry always is driven by supply and demand this year the higher American dollar is said to be the main factor behind higher shore prices.
YARMOUTH – After being trapped by low shore prices in past years, this is a good season for lobster fishermen in southwestern Nova Scotia.
What’s the catch? Many people are attributing the turnaround to the low Canadian dollar.
Fishermen were paid around $6 a pound for their catches at the start of the season, compared to prices of $4 and even closer to $3 in recent years. Last week the price had climbed to around $10 a pound – not so great for the consumer, perhaps, but good for the fishermen.
It’s a case of a supply and demand as not as many fishermen are on the water at this time of the year, and those who are make less frequent trips. Markets have also grown and increased. But the low Canadian dollar is making the most difference, especially since 75 per cent of the market goes to the U.S.
“That’s the biggest factor, the exchange,” says Yarmouth fisherman Bernie Berry of the Coldwater Lobster Association. “Price wise for fishermen it’s been a very good season. You’d probably have to go back to 2005, 2006 or 2007 to see a shore price like that.”
READ ALSO: Southwest Nova economy benefiting from strong lobster season.
With just under a 1,000 lobster licences in this district, Berry says a healthy fishery is good for the economy. It also helps with expenses, which are also aided by lower fuel prices.
“Bait prices are up, but fuel prices are down,” he says. “It helps to offset it.”
Berry expects to see fishing activity get busy again in mid-to-late March. The season in LFA 34 runs to May 31.
“The bottom line is it’s been a very good year, can we improve on it? Yes. We can always improve on it,” he says.
In fact Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada, says fishermen really have luck to thank for this season.
“We're lucky we have a cheap dollar, but that’s not a way to run a business,” he says. “We should be more proactive about what we’re doing in the markets to ensure this strength continues when our own dollar strengthens.”
Irvine says the value of exports this season is up by around 20 per cent because of the exchange rate. He says industry needs to ensure its product is the best quality possible because there are a lot of markets taking interest in lobster. The United States remains a traditional market for much of the live product, but there is strong growth in places like South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong. China, Irvine says, is booming. He says live lobster is being sold to around 60 countries but there is always room for expansion.
“Our competition is getting very aggressive, investing in marketing and promotion, we need to be too,” he says. “We have to realize that this advantage we now have is because of the exchange rate, it’s not because we’re doing anything different.
“Again it is just luck,” he adds. “We need to invest in things to take away the luck factor and instead become masters of our destiny.”