Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, July 10, 2014
Lobstering’s busy season on a “routine” schedule
A colder winter and spring the likely cause
by Jessica Brophy
After the past few years of tumultuous lobster seasons, “normal” seems almost odd. Summer lobstering is typically marked by the arrival of “shedders” or molted lobsters, which travel to shallower waters once the water has warmed. In 2012, shedders arrived earlier than usual and led to a “glut” of lobsters in the system. The average price per pound of lobsters was $2.69 for the year, according to Maine Department of Marine Resources data. That was the lowest price per pound since 1994.
This year seems to be following a more traditional schedule, with shedders likely to arrive in shallow coastal waters in mid-July.
“If you look at three years ago, four years ago, this is more of a routine schedule in terms of when shedders are going to happen,” said Patrick Shepard, Fisheries Policy Associate at Penobscot East Resource Center.
Shepard said the return to a routine schedule is likely due to the cold winter and more gradual spring the state has seen this year.
“We had a cold, snowy winter, and we’re still getting a lot of cold water coming out of the rivers,” said Shepard.
The average temperature for Penobscot Bay for April through June this year has been 43.5 Fahrenheit, according to data from the Northeast Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems. Compare that to 2012, when the average temperature for Penobscot Bay for the same time period was 45.6 degrees.
While it may mean that lobstermen are waiting for the surge of shedders—and income—Shepard thinks overall a return to a more traditional schedule for lobsters is a good thing.
“I would say it’s good news,” said Shepard. “It might not sound like good news right now as far as everybody’s wallets are concerned. But I wouldn’t be tagging this year as a bad year for lobsters.”
While there are many factors that affect market price, Shepard hopes the traditional schedule will improve prices overall. Currently, the price of shedders is $2.25 per pound and the price of hardshell lobsters is $4.50.
“Hopefully we’ll see more consistently higher prices,” said Shepard.
Currently, Shepard has seen many area fishermen hauling “about half and half,” meaning half shedders and half hard-shell lobsters. “It’s a good sign that the lobsters are doing their thing and they’re on their way,” said Shepard.