Maine Lobsters' Early Shed Could Impact Price

This summer, the price of a Maine lobster will depend a lot of the weather in Maine six months ago.

According to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, the mild weather this past winter and warming ocean temperatures (about 2 degrees warmer than normal) is causing lobsters to shed about 2-3 weeks earlier this year. The findings were published in the GMRI's annual Lobster Forecast.

That means the lobster population should hit "high-landing" mode early, as well.

"There's going to be more available," said Scarborough dealer Dick Whitmore.

Lobsterman Jon Gilman, who has been lobstering for 44 years, said this year is abnormal already.

Typically, lobsters shed around the week of July 4. But this season, it's starting to happen mid-June.

"The percentage of shedders we've caught has been quite high for this time of year," said Gilman.

Some lobstermen worry this indicates a large catch, and a lower price for lobster. It's welcome news for consumers, but concerning for some lobstermen who fear another glut.

"The price always goes down when the shedders come out," said Gilman. "Our catches will double or triple when the soft shells come out."

He said right now, he is getting about $4.75 for soft shell lobsters and $6.50 for hard shells, adding, "it's a high price -- it's a good price!"

Gilman thinks if the price started strong this season, the industry can survive a dip in price later in the summer.

"I think it's going to be a good year," he said.

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