Coronavirus scare impacts local lobster markets

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 1:00pm

    While Maine lobster exporters are reporting a drop in prices due to lost sales to China, area dealers see a mixed picture of supply and demand at the local level.

    “It is not the Chinese market. It is domestic,” said Spencer Fuller, a manager at Cozy Harbor Seafood, Inc. in Portland. “People are not going out.”

    Fuller said prices are “soft” due to the fears connected with the coronavirus. “It is scaring everybody.”

    Closer to home, Hugh Thompson of Robinson’s Wharf and Seafood Restaurant of Southport sees multiple factors moving lobster prices.

    “We sell locally,” said Thompson. He said the restaurant would have sufficient lobster to meet demand when the business opened on Thursday, March 12.

    “It is a big scare,” said Thompson of the spread of virus-related sickness.

    On the other hand, local lobstermen, aware of the virus scare, appear to be hanging back from setting traps, anticipating slack demand, Thompson observed. “You won’t see a lot of activity,” said Thompson, who factored in the high price of lobster bait and the seasonal low catch rate.

    “It will come back,” said Thompson.

    Ed Tibbetts of Atlantic Edge Lobster, Inc. in Boothbay Harbor was reluctant to quote wholesale and retail prices, both because they vary from day to day and for competitive reasons.

    Tibbetts agreed seasonally low catches are more than offset by a drop off in demand. “The price is coming down,” said Tibbetts. Tibbetts pointed to the crash in the stock market influencing buying choices for higher priced seafood.

    “It is a luxury,” he said.

    Tibbetts said people’s lost personal savings coupled with the virus scare will impact lobster sales and therefore prices.

    “Corona is worldwide,” he said. “A lot of people are not going out.”

    Tibbetts was worried if the virus scare continues into the summer, it could impact seafood sales and tourism overall.