Sometimes a family historian has to step into the present day and pause for a look at events that may be history tomorrow. While most people are tuned in to the what's happening in the water in Beijing at the Summer Olympic Games, lobstermen in Maine are watching the Atlantic water and probably shaking their heads.
No, this isn't a foodie blog, but readers who have been following along on my New England rambles, may have noted a running lobster commentary. Before leaving Los Angeles on August 10, I noted a small newspaper article reporting on the drop in fresh lobster prices. It seems that the high fuel costs were contributing to higher trapping expenses for lobstermen and less tourists to purchase live lobster when dining out. The result was an expected price drop for retail live lobster.
If you enjoy these delicious crustaceans, you probably know that restaurants rarely quote a price on the menu. Typically, fresh lobster is sold at "Market" price, cost plus the restaurant's markup and preparation expense. We paid the not-too-high Maine restaurant price of $14-$16 for a fresh lobster roll, and $20-$25 for a steamed 1-1/2 lb. lobster. Probably on the low side of restaurant market price.
Local home cooks, however, must be enjoying the dramatic price drop in lobster available at dockside markets. This sign on Commercial Street along the Portland harbor says it all: Lobster $5.49/lb. Lobstermen and their families must be having a rough time of it these days.
Only one year ago, a lobster shortage pushed retail prices to over $15/lb, estimated to be at an all-time high by The Sun Journal Maine newspaper.
Harsh winter weather, abnormally cold water temperatures and the timing of fishing seasons are blamed for the shortage. "Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong," said Peter McAleney, owner of New Meadows Lobster. . .And it sure has fallen. Hopefully, lobstermen will weather the times and be around for next season, but this may be the stuff that goes down in the record books as the lean summer of 2008. Spread the word, support the lobster industry and EAT MORE LOBSTER!
"When it falls, it's going to fall hard," he said.