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'Expensive lobster is good for everyone in N.S.': Winners and losers as prices of crustaceans skyrocket

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Famous Maritime lobster rolls may be harder to find at some eating establishments this summer, but those in the lobster industry say the region should be celebrating the soaring prices, rather than complaining about them.

Unless you buy it regularly, you may not have noticed lobster prices have quietly skyrocketed over the last couple of years.

"Actually, it turned the marketplace on its head because going into COVID-19, 65 per cent of our product usually ended up in restaurants and 35 per cent in retail," said Bernie Berry, the past president of the Coldwater Lobster Association, from his home in Yarmouth, N.S.

"Also, people had some more disposable income because the government programs, whether it be Canada, the U.S. or elsewhere, and I think everything has led to an uptick in prices, and the markets have remained strong."

Restaurant demand has now recovered, Berry says, but retail has remained strong and international-demand has exploded.

Wharf prices now are said to be nearly five times what they were during a slump at the start of the pandemic.

At the iconic Armview Restaurant and Lounge in Halifax, lobster rolls have quietly disappeared from their menu.

Chef Colin March frequently freshens up the menu as products move in and out of season, but doesn't expect the rolls to return anytime soon - especially since most entrees at the popular eatery are somewhere around $15.

"We are a family diner, and putting a lobster sandwich on the menu, we could be into the mid-to-low $30s," said March.

March says, although he hasn't ruled out bringing back lobster rolls, it likely won't return as a regular item.

"We might just have it as a feature for a Friday night, where we're able to charge a bit more, but on the daily, it may not make it on a regular menu item this summer," he said.

Customer John Bully says the higher prices won't stop him from enjoying lobster a couple of times a year at his cottage in Pictou County, but acknowledges others might get priced-out.

"For people that really enjoy it and want to eat it on a regular basis, it's going to really hurt the pocketbook, I would think," said Bully.

Fisher groups admit they're happy to see the prices, but note expenses for everything, from fuel to bait, have also exploded, so the overall profits are about the same.

They also argue Maritimers ought to embrace the trend.

"We're Nova Scotia's largest export, and a chief economic driver," said Colin Sproul, the president of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association from Annapolis Royal, N.S.

"Expensive lobster is good for everyone in Nova Scotia - not just lobster fishermen."

Sproul says inflation has driven up the overall cost of living for everyone, including those who make a living hauling traps.

"I guess, what I would say in response is, 'Have they looked at a T-bone lately at the grocery store?'" said Sproul.

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