Lobster sales made a strong comeback in 2023, surpassing pre-pandemic levels, thanks to a stable supply and increased demand from the Asian market. Despite a projected 5 percent decrease in North American lobster landings for 2023, experts at the 2024 Global Seafood Market Conference in Orlando, Florida, emphasized that the lobster resource remains robust and reliable.
Andrew Daughan, Vice President of Ready Seafood, highlighted the consistency of the wild-caught species, stating that despite fluctuations in landings, the fishery has proven to be reliable year after year.
The growth in the sector was fueled by exports to China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam, as noted by Annie Tselikis, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Slade Gorton. Examining the 2023 data, Tselikis pointed out that the industry has almost returned to pre-pandemic and pre-trade war levels, showcasing significant recovery.
U.S. lobster exports to China faced challenges with tit-for-tat tariffs in 2018 and 2019, resulting in a decline in sales. However, in 2023, U.S. exports rebounded after China lifted its zero-Covid inspection regime for imported foods. This unexpected resurgence exceeded expectations, with Daughan noting that the industry maintained a steady supply despite market uncertainties.
Despite a decrease in lobster imports from Canada to the U.S. in 2023, Daughan attributed the change to higher interest rates impacting lobster distribution. Buyers are no longer relying on the industry to hold inventory year-round, leading to a shift in the market dynamics.
Addressing concerns about the potential loss of Marine Stewardship Council certification due to the fishery's interaction with the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, experts mentioned that this issue has largely been defused.
Source: Cliff White (Jan 25, 2024). Lobster sales surpassed pre-pandemic levels in 2023. Seafood Source. https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/premium/supply-trade/lobster-sales-surpassed-pre-pandemic-levels-in-2023
Image courtesy of the National Fisheries Institute