Soft-shelled lobster reports worry processors
Graders say more than 90 per cent are hard-shelled
Yarmouth lobster processors expressed concern on Monday about reports of more soft-shelled lobsters than usual this year in Southwest Nova Scotia, although graders have determined that more than 90 per cent are hard-shelled, which is the grade needed to ship long distances.
Denny Morrow of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association said that while many soft-shelled lobsters landed in the first week of the season, overall the catch has been very healthy.
"There have been stories and there are people that think there is something wrong with the lobster, because we had a lot of soft-shelled the first week of the season," Morrow said.
Bob Newell, owner of Newell's Lobster Pound, said rumours of sick lobsters can be economically harmful, particularly during the Christmas rush.
"The perception is that they are soft, [that] there is something wrong with those lobsters or there's been even quotes that they are sick," he said.
"It's a big concern of ours and we don't want that out there that way because it's not true."
Lobsters are hand-graded for quality. Graders have determined that more than 90 per cent are hard-shelled, which is the grade needed to ship long distances.
Soft-shelled animals go to processing plants. Many are canned or turned into frozen lobster tails sold to restaurants.
Those dependent on lobster-industry incomes also said the low prices don't allow any room for loss of sales due to rumours.
"The price is definitely too low for the industry. It's hard with fishermen. It's hard with dealers," said Newell.
Geoff Irvine of the Canadian Lobster Council said soft shells could lead international buyers to attempt to negotiate lower prices.
"You can be sure they are trying but I can tell you that our shippers are sophisticated; they know what they have in those boxes," he said.
Community leaders have set up a weeklong lobster bash, during which 15 local restaurants will serve lobster specials to show confidence in the product and encourage Christmas shoppers to spend their money in town.
This season it is expected that 25 million pounds of lobster will be landed in the Yarmouth area.