Maine lobster. (Photo: Stock File)
Most Maine lobster would be entering China via indirect routes
Thursday, July 13, 2017, 02:50 (GMT + 9)
A new study carried out by scientists from the University of Maine indicates that indirect and back-door routes bring almost double as much of Maine lobster to China than previously thought.
These researchers believe that there is even more North American lobster being traded along indirect and sometimes shadowy routes through other places in Asia, like Hong Kong and Vietnam, that eventually ends up as luxury eats for China’s growing middle class, Press Herald reported.
According to University of Maine research professor Joshua Stoll, a Down East native who has spent a few seasons lobstering himself, the implications could be significant for Maine’s lobster industry.
Stoll and his Swedish counterpart, Beatrice Crona, are studying American lobster trade routes to China.
“Trade isn’t good or bad,” Stoll said. “But we should know who is buying our lobster and understand the risks. We could be in for a surprise.”
The professor is referencing the volatility of China’s market, which can be as complicated as it can be lucrative. He offers the example of what happened with Norwegian salmon in the Chinese market, whose shipments had been stopped for weeks some years ago due to supposedly sanitary issues mixed with a political reason.
In his opinion, if something similar happened with lobster, the market would eventually recover, and dealers would find another market for their lobster, but prices would likely drop, and that would be painful for all involved, from lobstermen to boat builders to the people who sell them cars or houses.
Stoll pointed out that the largest lobster price drops over the last 25 years can be traced back to international events.
Prices fell in 2001, after the World Trade Centre attacks changed flight and cargo shipping patterns. They fell again in 2007-08, during the global recession, and in 2012, when an early molt led to a spring glut that had Canadian lobstermen blocking routes into Canadian processing plants to stem the oversupply.