New Brunswick

Maritime lobster industry reportedly doing better than ever

The Maritime Fisherman's Union says industry revenues are trending to an all-time high, with a record-high lobster population off the coast of New Brunswick and international demand continuing to increase.

Boom comes as international demand continues to rise

Biologists with Fisheries and Oceans Canada say it takes them more than four times the amount of time to count the lobster population in Cocagne Bay because of its high abundance. (Radio-Canada/Nicolas Steinbach)

After years of tough times, it looks like revenues are trending to an all-time high for the Maritime lobster industry, says its union.

"In the last few years, we feel we've seen some historical highs in terms of catches," said Christian Brun, head of the Maritime Fishermen's Union.

High catches combined with a steadily increasing international demand means big money for the industry.

But that's probably not going to translate into lower prices. 

At the Moncton Fish Market, lobster is selling at $14.50 a pound, which merchants say is actually slightly higher than in previous years.

Historic high lobster population

"There's a lot of lobster at the bottom, it's literally crawling on the sea floor," said Amélie Rondeau, a biologist in the lobster section of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Times haven't always been good for the lobster population in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, so having scientists say the species is in historically high abundance is not something to be taking lightly.

It's a very different situation than that seen in some parts of the U.S., where scientists say the lobster population has shrunk to some of the lowest levels on record.

So why such a different story? 

"Conservation measures that have been put in place lately, increase in carapace size, protecting big females that will produce more eggs, are definitely good for the recruitment of the stocks," said Rondeau.

Conservation measures have made a big difference in protecting New Brunswick's lobster population, but scientists feel there's another piece to the puzzle — climate change.

Lobsters are very sensitive to temperatures, and scientists believe warming oceans may be forcing some to migrate north, with the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence just the right spot. 

Growing industry

"85 per cent of our products to 90 per cent are going to the U.S.," said Brun. 

Brun said the Maritime lobster industry went through a few difficult years when American markets were in crisis, but believes it is now stronger than ever. 

"The prices went down tremendously for lobsters, and it created some new markets because prices were making these products more available. So all these people got used to eating lobster."

Now, with the Canadian dollar low, the demand coming from the U.S. and other international markets is even higher.

"You're seeing more people eating food that wasn't available to some of these populations, in Asia and elsewhere around the world, that are interested or becoming interested because they were emerging countries and now they're becoming developed countries with a large population that's medium class."

"You might see historical highs in terms of revenues for our industry," said Brun.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said the Moncton fish market is selling lobster for $6.35 per kilogram. In fact, it is selling lobster for $14.50 per pound.
    Jul 30, 2016 10:35 AM AT

About the Author

Gabrielle Fahmy is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been a journalist with the CBC since 2014.