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Lobster, never cheap, is pricier than usual this year

It’s more expensive this season due to limited supply, high demand and the reopening of the economy as the nation moves past the coronavirus pandemic.

If you’re hoping to find lobster at a supermarket or a restaurant this summer, you’ll have to pay a premium price.
If you’re hoping to find lobster at a supermarket or a restaurant this summer, you’ll have to pay a premium price.
Robert F. Bukaty / AP

If you’re looking to have a little lobster to celebrate the start of the After Times after getting vaccinated for COVID-19, better be ready to pay extra for the pricey delight this summer.

Lobster is more expensive than usual this season due to a limited supply, high demand and the reopening of the economy as the nation moves past the coronavirus pandemic.

In Maine, where much of the lobster Americans consume comes from, stores charged $17 or $18 a pound in May for live lobster — about twice the price a year ago.

Prices are lingering in the $13 or $14 range this month. Lobster usually is expensive in late spring, but this season has seen prices that are higher than typical.

The wholesale price for live, 1.25-pound lobsters in the New England market on May 1 was $9.01 a pound on May 1, business publisher Urner Barry reported — about $2.70 a pound more than the previous May 1 and the highest price for that date in at least five years.

The high prices are an indicator that customers are looking to get back out to restaurants, and that high-end seafood is in high demand, according to John Sackton, an industry analyst and founder of SeafoodNews.com.

“It’s the strength of food service and trying to gear up for what they think is going to be a strong summer,” Sackton said. “That’s pushing the price on a lot of these items that can draw traffic and are kind of must-have on a casino menu or something like that.”

Other factors include a lack of inventory and what appears to be a slow start to the fishing season. New England’s busiest lobster fishing season takes place in the summer, and many harvesters are just starting to get their traps into the water.

“The fishermen will tell you check back at the end of the season, then they’ll know whether they had a good season,” said Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association.

U.S. lobster fishing is based primarily in Maine, though many lobsters also come ashore in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

In Maine, more than 96 million pounds of lobsters were brought to the docks last year — the lowest total since 2010 but still much more than typically was caught in the 1990s.