Reduced US landings will open new opportunities for Canadian suppliers


Lobster landings in the United States of America are on a declining trend, but demand in the domestic market as well as in export markets like China is growing. Consequently, there will be more pressure on Canadian suppliers to provide the quantities needed to satisfy market demand.


Global lobster landings (all species included) probably declined by some 5 percent during 2022 to about 300 000 tonnes. Maine landings were down by 5 000 tonnes. Maine is still by far the main producer of lobsters in the United States of America, accounting for almost 80 percent of the total US production.

Lobster landings in Maine and Massachusetts have been on a declining trend since 2012. US landings peaked in 2016 with 68 100 tonnes, but have declined since then. In 2022 landings were estimated at 51 600 tonnes.

However, Canada is still the largest producer of lobster. In 2021, the world’s total lobster landings (including all species) were 316 868 tonnes. Canada accounted for 105 709 tonnes of this, or one third of the total. The United States of America came second with 63 531 tonnes (20 percent of the total), followed by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland with 35 324 tonnes (11 percent of the total). 

Lobster harvesters operating in the Cape Cod Bay area in Massachusetts are getting worried about the lack of oxygen in the water. Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutions have identified the causes of the hypoxia. Growth of algae, caused by warmer water temperatures, and intensified ocean stratification, are contributing factors. The lack of oxygen is pushing the lobsters to new areas, and the harvesters are moving their traps to follow the lobsters. But changing conditions in these areas are making the operation difficult. The state’s Division of Marine Fisheries has implemented a monitoring system whereby the harvesters can upload data on dissolved oxygen levels to help them avoid hypoxic areas.  

The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) have had problems with illegal harvesting of lobsters in Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 34 as some harvesters have been fishing outside of the authorized season. DFO maintains that it will crack down on such activity, in spite of complaints from both lawmakers and fishermen.

LFA 34 is Canada’s largest lobster fishing area. In 2021, almost 20 600 tonnes of lobster were landed there. The season begins every year on the last Monday in November and ends on 31 May the following year. But in 2020, the Sipekne’katik First Nation started a self-regulated “moderate livelihood” lobster fishery in September, well outside of the authorized season. This naturally led to confrontation with licensed harvesters, and riots followed. The Sipekne’katik First Nations now has filed a lawsuit against DFO over the seizure of two of its members’ traps and is arguing that it is operating a lawful, self-regulated moderate livelihood fishery.

Demand for spiny lobsters is coming back up to pre-COVID-19 levels. Chefs like the spiny lobsters, and as tourism is picking up again, demand for spiny lobsters is increasing.

The spiny lobster season in Nicaragua and Honduras runs from the beginning of July until the end of February, one month ahead of the Florida and Bahamas season, which runs from early August until the end of March. Because of warmer waters, lobsters are being pushed further out to sea, away from the shores of Florida and the Bahamas, and making them harder to find. Thus, harvesters in Florida and Bahamas have not caught much lobster. Production of spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus) in the Caribbean was up at the beginning of the 2023 – 2024 season, but US import prices were dropping at the same time. Exporters in Nicaragua claimed they were getting USD 17 per pound, or one dollar less per pound compared to the end of the 2022 – 2023 season in February 2023.

Florida spiny lobster landings have been going up and down over the years. In the 2013 – 2014 August – March season, a total of 6.4 million pounds (2 883 tonnes) at an estimated value of USD 55.5 million were landed. In the 2020 – 2021 season, landings dropped to 3.4 million pounds (1 554 tonnes) at an estimated value of USD 25.7 million. In the 2022 – 2023 season, landings improved to 5.7 million pounds (2 570 tonnes) at an estimated value of USD 44.4 million.


In August 2023, lobster fishers in Maine were expecting prices for lobster tails to go up. But in late September, it still had not happened. Prices for lobster tails and meat were lower than in August. However, prices for live lobster were climbing. Landing prices have been steady through September, while wholesale prices for live lobsters have been increasing moderately (+ 5 to 10 percent) since the beginning of August.

As lobster landings in Maine and Massachusetts decline, there will be heavier pressure on Canadian suppliers to export more to the United States of America. However, demand from China is also strong, and will most likely remain so in the next few years. It is estimated that Chinese demand for Canadian lobster will stay at the 67 000 to 69 000 tonne level during 2024 and 2025.

International trade

Global exports of lobster increased during the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Total exports increased by 10.3 percent to 83 010 tonnes. The largest exporter by far, Canada, had an increase in exports of 7.7 percent, to 50 642 tonnes, while the second largest exporter, the United States of America, experienced a 5.1 percent decline in exports. US imports of lobster declined by 7.7 percent, to 25 673 tonnes, while China had an increase of 15.3 percent in imports, to 23 222 tonnes. Canada was the major supplier and accounted for 59 percent of total Chinese imports.

Canadian exports of live lobsters have fluctuated a bit lately, but prices are now edging upwards again after being very low. It seems that consumers are more price sensitive now after the COVID-19 pandemic and with world economy heading for high inflation and slow growth. However, exporters are expecting prices to continue rising over the next few months. One of the reasons for this is that China now seems to be back in the market after having been in complete lockdown through most of 2022.

US exports of live, fresh lobsters to China during the second quarter of 2023 soared to 830 tonnes worth USD 16.25 million. This represented an increase of 69 percent by volume and 55 percent by value compared to the second quarter of 2022.

Imports by the European Union were pretty much the same as in 2022. The largest supplier to the European Union was Canada, as usual.


Demand on the Chinese market will remain strong in the coming years, and demand in the United States of America will grow again. One uncertainty factor is how the economy develops, but some observers believe that lobster consumers will in general be less affected by inflation than the “average” consumer. Demand in Europe is good, but European economies may be more strongly affected by the inflation and by very high costs of just about everything, partly as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.

Supplies will be tighter, partly because US landings are declining, but also because demand in most markets is strong. Prices may be expected to rise, even though they took a fall in mid-2022.

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