Integrated Fisheries Management Plan

Lobster in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence



Socio-economic Profile

Canada and the United States (US) share the world landings for American lobster. In 2011, Canada landed 66,500 tonnes of lobster1, compared with 57,255 tonnes for the United States2.

In 2012, the Gulf Region accounted for approximately 35% of the Canadian volume of lobster landings with nearly 23,500 tonnes of lobster landed.

Lobster is landed at some 140 ports of the Gulf Region and represents a key species in terms of fishing revenue for coastal communities. It is the main source of income and employment for nearly 3,000 fishing enterprises and directly employs about 7,100 fish harvesters. The vast majority of lobster licence holders are multispecies enterprises that also hold licences for other species such as herring, mackerel or tuna. However, the lobster fishery is the main source of fishing revenue for most of these enterprises with the value of lobster catches accounting on average for 90% of the value of their total landings.

It is estimated that since 2005, 75% to 85% of Canadian lobster production is being exported. In 2012, total Canadian seafood export value was over $4.1 billion of which 27% ($1.1 billion) consisted of lobster exports. The United States is by far the dominant market, accounting, since the early 2000s, for about 80% of the total value of lobster exports. From 2008 to 2012, processed lobster and live lobster exports accounted for an average of approximately 60% and 40% respectively of the value of Canadian lobster exports.

The US is not only a large consumer of lobster, but also a major producer. The value of US lobster exports was US$511.8 million in 2012, with 62% of the volume of lobster going to Canada3. The US exports lobster for processing to Canada, mainly New Brunswick. Once processed, this US caught lobster is again exported, back to the US, and its value is therefore included in the value of Canadian processed lobster exports.

In the Gulf Region, the landed value of the lobster fishery, $209.4 million, accounted for 59% of the total value of regional landings in 2012. Two size categories (or grades) of lobsters are landed in the Gulf Region: “markets” (carapace size of 81 mm or more) and “canners” (carapace size smaller than 81 mm). Canners weigh between 250 and 375 grams and are unique to the Gulf Region; they get their name from being used in the past for canning. “Market” lobsters weigh more than a pound and are the preferred category for restaurants. The proportion of canner landings is gradually decreasing over the years and accounted for approximately 50% of the total volume of lobster landings in the Gulf Region in 2012.

A significant price decrease occurred in the 2008-2009 lobster season due to the global economic and financial crisis at the time which presented two key challenges for the lobster fishery in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. First, there was lower demand from the US and European food service markets for a product that is commonly perceived as a luxury item. Second, harvesters and buyers (i.e. processors in Canada and importers in the US and Europe) were having difficulty securing working capital to finance inventories and thus slowed their purchase rate4.

In 2011, 240 licensed primary processing plants had lobster as a species endorsement in the provinces of Nova Scotia (180), New Brunswick (41) and Prince Edward Island (19). Approximately 170 of these processing plants were actively processing lobster in 2011.

1 Commercial Fisheries Landings

2 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - Annual Commercial Landing Statistics

3 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - Annual Trade Data by Product, Country/Association

4 Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Measures – Terms and Conditions for Contribution Program