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Value of P.E.I.'s lobster exports falls for 2nd straight year

Frozen lobster makes up the biggest portion of products exported by P.E.I., according to Industry Canada.  (South Shore Seafood - image credit)
Frozen lobster makes up the biggest portion of products exported by P.E.I., according to Industry Canada. (South Shore Seafood - image credit)

P.E.I. lobster exports were down again in 2023, but the Lobster Council of Canada is expecting a rebound.

Executive director Geoff Irvine said markets are still settling after a bust during the pandemic and a following boom.

"It's a lot of different factors. There was significant holdover inventory of some frozen products," said Irvine.

"Year-to-year we see these fluctuations in live and frozen products, and it's sometimes hard to explain it."

Geoff Irvine of the Lobster Council of Canada says the biggest price drops in the lobster business were in processed and frozen lobster. But the industry is resilient.
Geoff Irvine of the Lobster Council of Canada says the biggest price drops in the lobster business were in processed and frozen lobster. But the industry is resilient.

Europe will be a focus of marketing this year, says Lobster Council of Canada executive director Geoff Irvine. (Robert Short/CBC)

The total value of P.E.I.'s lobster exports in 2023 was $265 million, down from $310 million in 2022, according to Industry Canada statistics.

In 2020, P.E.I.'s lobster exports did not see the same kind of decline that the Canadian industry experienced as a whole. Nationally, exports were down 19 per cent while P.E.I.'s dropped only slightly. But the Island's industry benefited enormously from the 2021 rebound, when sales jumped by 78 per cent.

That was a high from which there was a long way to fall. Despite double-digit decreases in the last two years, exports in 2023 were still 11 per cent higher than they were in 2019.

European markets in particular have been soft, said Irvine.

"I think much of the downturn last year was due to the really heavy buying through the pandemic rebound year," he said.

"I think we'll get back to a more normal, whatever normal is, but a much more normal pattern in 2024."

The phasing out of tariffs on lobster meat exported to the European Union should also help, he added.

Europe will be a focus of marketing campaigns this year, said Irvine, but it remains uncertain where that money will come from.

Last year, about $200,000 of the group's marketing spending came from the Canadian Fish and Seafood Opportunities Fund.

That fund expires this month and Irvine said the council is still in talks with the federal and provincial governments on marketing money for this year.