(The Center Square) – With the COVID-19 financial downturn causing ripple effects across Maine’s fishing economy, the lobster industry has seen per pound prices plummet roughly 65 percent.
While spring prices usually are about $7.50 a pound, it’s fallen as low as $2.60 this year, according to a report from the Portland Press Herald.
With much of the hospitality sector shut down amid stay-at-home orders to prevent spread of the coronavirus, the lobster industry is seeing a sharp drop in demand, Marianne LaCroix, Executive Director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC), said in an email response to The Center Square.
“Typically, about 70% of Maine Lobster is consumed through foodservice channels including restaurants, cruise ships and casinos,” LaCroix said. “Because of the pandemic, these channels are either closed completely or operating at a reduced capacity.”
Meanwhile, as government relief efforts continue at the state and federal level, lobster suppliers have had to focus on other markets.
“Grocery chains and online shippers are showing an increase in sales, which means that demand is still strong,” LaCroix said. “The challenge for suppliers will be to re-direct the volume lost to traditional channels to new customers. This will be a difficult undertaking to accomplish in a single season.”
The MLMC is working to support this effort by providing educational materials and doing advertising that is tailored for the home cook.
“For consumers, the good news is that Maine Lobster is available during this time,” LaCroix said. "Mainer shoppers can go to their local fish market, lobster co-op, or local lobsterman to purchase lobster. Out-of-state consumers can order Maine Lobster directly online or shop at their local grocery store."
This year’s Maine Lobster Festival was also postponed until August 2021, according to a report by News Center Maine. It’s another hardship for an industry that employs about 5,000 lobstermen in Maine and brings $1 billion annually to the state’s economy.
“This is not the first time we as Mainers have faced severe adversity” MLMC Board Chair Brian Langley said in a news release. "The ice storm of 1998, September 11, and the recession of 2008 were events that tested our mettle. What we witnessed in the face of crippling adversity is the Maine spirit that refuses to give up."