Fishermen’s Double Whammy: Weak Price and Weak Lobsters

JONESPORT — The future may be brighter for Maine’s lobster industry, but around the docks that future still seems to be far away.

This week, the boat price for lobsters remained at rock bottom levels along the coast.

Downeast, lobster dealer Sid Look, who runs O.W. & B.S. Look Co., said the base price was $1.35 per pound “plus 50 cents to 70 cents for bonuses in greater Jonesport.”

Several fishermen said that they had received the same price, and hoped for a 70-cent bonus, from the Stonington Lobster Co-op.

The system of paying a bonus at the end of the year is more common among co-ops than independent dealers. The amount of the bonus is based primarily on the co-op’s profitability.

“We always called it a Christmas bonus,” Look said Wednesday. “A lot of the boys depend on it for Santa Claus.”

In harbors that don’t rely on the bonus, the boat price to fishermen was higher, but not much.

On Monday, a Blue Hill lobsterman said his dealer based at the South Blue Hill Wharf had paid him $2.05 for his day’s landings. On Wednesday, Rob Bauer, manager of Beal’s Lobster Co. in Southwest Harbor, reported paying a straight price of $2 per pound.

Like his Downeast counterpart, he didn’t sound happy about the price, the market or the quality of lobsters that fishermen were landing at the dock.

Bauer said he buys about 100 crates — 9,000 pounds — of lobster per day. Although the quality of the lobsters is “OK,” he said, “an average of more than 300 pounds per day goes right into the Dumpster” because the lobsters are too weak to handle or already dead.

Beal’s isn’t the only dealer facing the quality problem. According to Bauer, one major Hancock County dealer has had to dispose of more than 10,000 pounds of lobsters too weak to ship or even, as Beal’s did the other day, cook them right off the boat and then refrigerate them overnight to be used in lobster rolls. At least one major dealer has reportedly had to dispose of more than 100,000 pounds of lobsters.

For more maritime news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]