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GLOBEFISH - Information and Analysis on World Fish Trade

Growing lobster demand in China with prices on the rise


The report analyses the market situation over the year 2016 and the first quarter 2017.

In 2016, there was strong growth in demand for lobster in China, and major producers increased shipments to this country, with rising prices. So far for 2017, the strong demand from Chinese New Year in January also pushed prices up.


North American lobster supplies are expected to decline in 2017. After having had continuous growth since 2007, a 6 percent decline was registered in 2016, and this is expected to fall further this year. In 2015, total lobster landings in North America amounted to 152 200 tonnes, of which 86 200 tonnes were landed in Canada. Though official figures are not yet available for 2016, it is estimated that landings amounted to just 143 000 tonnes (-6 percent), of which 76 000 tonnes (-12 percent) were landed in Canada.

In the USA, the lobster resource off the southern New England region is under pressure. New fishing restrictions aimed at restoring the declining resource could be introduced as early as May.

In December 2016, it was reported that New Brunswick lobster landings were looking good after the season opened in early November. Fishers noted that landings were up by as much as 10 percent, with high prices to the fishers reported.
In contrast, bad weather off Nova Scotia and New England kept lobster fishers ashore for long periods in December 2016. This led to a shortage of lobster, which in turn pushed prices up significantly. In addition to good demand in North America for the Christmas and year-end season, there was very strong demand in China as mentioned above.

South Africa's west coast rock lobster is threatened by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, overfishing and inadequate fisheries management measures. Various organizations, including the WWF and the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association are now calling for a temporary stop, or at least a major reduction, in the fishery. Experts say a full closure of the fishery is unlikely, but a reduction in the fishing effort is required.

International trade

Global lobster imports increased only slightly in 2016 compared with 2015, totalling 162 300 tonnes (+0.8 per cent compared with 2015). The largest importers were the USA (51 200 tonnes), the EU (33 400 tonnes), Canada (31 300 tonnes) and China (19 700 tonnes). The USA registered a slight decline in import volumes (-6 percent), while China continued its trend of growing imports, with a rise of 23.9 percent

Demand in the EU appears to be stable. In 2016, lobster imports into the EU increased marginally by 1.5 percent, to 33 400 tonnes.

The demand for lobster in China is strong, and Canada is shipping more to China than in previous years. One exporter chartered a Boeing 747 to fly lobsters directly from Halifax to China in order to meet the significant demand during Chinese New Year. Product shipped to China consists mainly of live lobster, which fetches a premium price.
Canada's lobster exports declined very slightly (-1.6 percent) to 73 100 tonnes. The main markets for Canada were the USA, accounting for over 59.4 percent of the total, followed by China (11.2 percent of total) and the Republic of Korea (4.2 percent).

US exports of lobster, on the other hand, increased by 7.4 percent to 55 500 tonnes. Main markets for the USA were Canada (58 percent of total), China (9.7 percent of total) and Italy (6.7 percent of total). As much as 93 percent of US lobster exports were fresh or live lobsters.

Republic of Korean lobster imports from North America set a new record with 4 500 tonnes being imported last year. Total import value reached US$94 million, an increase of 13.7 percent compared with 2015. Canada accounted for 63.7 percent of the imports, while the USA accounted for 35.9 percent.


New Zealand rock lobster is enjoying tremendous popularity in China. Chinese imports of this product have increased dramatically over the past decade, and so has the price. In 2001, China accounted for 70 percent of New Zealand's lobster exports. In 2016, the country took nearly all lobster exports (99 percent). FOB prices have increased by 285 percent from 2004–2016 in US dollar terms. The main driving force behind this development is the growing buying power of the Chinese middle class.

Strong demand for lobster meat has pushed prices up recently and widened the gap between prices for lobster meat and tails. Whereas prices for lobster tails have been practically flat since late 2014, prices for lobster meat have skyrocketed since mid-2015. Prices for lobster tails in the USA have been relatively flat for a long time, while for whole lobster prices have been rising over the past 2–3 years. Whole lobster prices are seasonal, while lobster tails do not seem to be subject to seasonal variations.

Lobster prices in Europe are clearly seasonal, with a peak at or just after Christmas (January–February), while prices during the summer months are low.

Though lobster prices overall rose in 2016 and remained high in early 2017, prices will drop in April and May as the Prince Edward Island fishery gets under way.


The report analyses the market situation over the year 2016 and the first quarter 2017. 

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