Coronavirus outbreak is sinking lobster prices, reports claim

An American lobster (NEFSC/NOAA File)

Bring in the dancing lobsters, and get ‘em while they’re hot.

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak is drowning Chinese demand for American lobster, reportedly plunging market prices to record lows.

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Amid the COVID-19 crisis, lobster prices in the U.S. have hit their lowest in at least four years, Bloomberg reports. China is one of the biggest export destinations for live lobster, where the delicacy is “a sign of wealth and status” among the middle class, as well as a popular choice for Lunar New Year celebrations and weddings as a “symbol of good fortune,” according to The New York Times. 

However, no one is quite indulging like they used to during widespread lockdowns and the continued outbreak. Travel restrictions, too, have effectively canceled the once-frequent charter flights of the crustaceans from the U.S. and Canada to the Asian nation.

Now, “thousands of pounds of unsold lobster” fill North American markets and put pressure on American businesses that were already feeling the pinch from scarce sales during President Donald Trump's trade tensions with China, which spawned heavy tariffs on U.S. lobster exports, according to Bloomberg. Through the last 18 months or so, Canadian lobstermen have mostly seized control of the market, not subject to the punitive tariffs.

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For example, seafood market reporter Liz Cuozzo of research firm Urner Barry told the outlet that New England lobster halves – weighing 1.5 pounds – are currently selling for the bargain price of $8.10, the period’s lowest sum since at least 2016.

In Maine, the lobster industry is leaving a decade where the volume and value of catch shattered previous records.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.