Perhaps it is because we are located next to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Maine, but the Newfoundland and Labrador lobster fishery has never received the attention and appreciation that it deserves. From an economic and marketing sense, that lack of attention will soon end.
The 2016 price structure for the lobster fishery remained largely unchanged from 2015. Harvesters get a share of the market price as it appears on the Urner Barry price site. The higher the price, the greater the share to the harvester. On the first $5, the harvester received $3.25; on any value between $5 and $6, the harvester receives 70%; and on any amount of $6, the harvester receives 80%. The price is set weekly, every Wednesday morning.
Prior to 2014, the lobster fishery in the province was mired in general stagnation. Prices did not increase year-over-year. For example in 2013 the price of lobster to harvesters was set at the lowest possible amount – $3.25 per pound – for 7 of the 13 weeks that a lobster price was reported. That year, the average weekly price was $3.59 per pound.
In 2014, there was a good improvement. There was only one week of $3.25 and the average weekly price improved significantly to $4.33. There was still room for improvement, however, as the price for 7 of the 15 weeks were still in the $3.00 range.
In 2015 there was a real breakthrough in price. There were no weeks in the $3.00 range and only 4 of the 14 weeks were in the $4.00 range. Last year, the average weekly price $5.81. This was a 62% increase over 2013.
With such a high price last year, there was concern that there would be a decline in 2016. Nothing of the sort happened. Prices did not start as high in 2016 as 2015, but they have remained consistently stronger throughout the year. Last year, starting the week of May 10, 2015, the price dropped from $5.30 to $4.43. This was the time when most of our lobster is landed.
In 2016, the May 10th week the price was $5.32, almost identical to last year. Over the past two weeks, the price dipped slightly and then bounced back up again to $5.39. The current price of lobster this year versus the same time a year ago is $0.96 higher. Compared to the same week in 2013, the 2016 price is 66% higher and compared to 2014 it is 52% higher. Given the current currency and market outlook, a drop is highly unlikely and prices will continue to increase.
These price increases have been great for harvesters. The lobster fishery is turning into a financial driver for the region, with harvesters able to triple and quadruple their lobster incomes from just a few years ago.