Nfld. & Labrador

In Shanghai, the hottest thing is live Canadian lobster delivered to your door

Chinese love of high-quality seafood triples online sales for home delivery in a year.

Fishing for China: How a little lobster is making a big impact

Fishing For China: Adam Walsh reports on how demand for Canadian lobster has exploded in China 4:00

Perhaps one of the best and most recent examples showing the potential of the Chinese market involves the humble Canadian lobster.

Jan-hua Dai is a businessman who buys a significant amount of lobster from Newfoundland's Whitecap International. The suppliers are N.L.'s Beothuk Fish Processors, Abrams Village in P.E.I. and Pointe-Sapin, N.B. Most of what he buys is frozen and shipped to China. (CBC) (CBC)

When you visit the high-end restaurants of Shanghai's Pudong district, you learn that restaurants here dish up lobster, and plenty of it. 

That being said, according people in the business, lobster more than five years ago wasn't even popular in China. 

Somehow, things started to take off — and boy, did they ever.

A chef at the Sunset on the Bund hotel in the Pudong area of Shanghai is preparing Chinese-style Atlantic Canadian lobster. (CBC)

In fact, the market has exploded far beyond the walls of splashy restaurants with their succulent dishes. 

All of a sudden, Chinese consumers were ordering Canadian lobster directly through online vendors like Alibaba.

In 2014, Chinese people bought 100 tonnes of Canadian lobster on Alibaba.

In 2015, more than 300 tonnes were sold there. 

Atlantic Canadian lobsters waiting to be sold to Chinese consumers. (CBC)

Live lobster, delivered to your door

Getting fresh lobster is easier than you might suspect. 

All you need to do is go online, order a lobster from the site, and get same-day delivery of a live lobster to your door.

A one-kg lobster will cost you about $70.

This seafood shop at Tongchuan Road Market in Shanghai, like many others in the area, specializes in live seafood delivery. (CBC)

To learn more, I headed to the biggest seafood market in Shanghai, which is on Tongchuan Road.

If it comes from the ocean and people eat it, you can find it somewhere along this road.

As scooters zip by, trucks are being filled with box after box after box. All over, you see workers scooping various critters out of tanks to be put in the boxes.

A worker is about to load boxes of seafood into a van for delivery around Shanghai and other major Chinese cities. (CBC)

The business is non-stop, and there are more than just scooters taking seafood straight to the consumer. Vans transport these boxes throughout Shanghai and to other major Chinese cities.

What's remarkable is how quickly the industry is evolving in China. 

This type of seafood delivery, using methods you'd associate with a pizza rather than a lobster that is still very much alive, has only really picked up in popularity of the last three or four years. 

Where is the market heading? 

Everywhere you go in Shanghai, you see a love of seafood, a growing demand for quality and the means to pay for it. 

China's middle class is now between 300 million and 400 million, and growing.

Perhaps the question isn't how much more will demand grow, but instead, how much can we afford to sell?

A scooter driver is about to head off with his package. In this case, it’s a lobster from Atlantic Canada. (CBC)

The Fishing for China series was made possible thanks to a fellowship from the Asia Pacific Foundation with support from Cathay Pacific.

About the Author

Adam Walsh

CBC News

Adam Walsh is a CBC journalist. He works primarily for the St. John's Morning Show, and contributes to television and digital programming.


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