Lobster Exports to China Have Fallen Off a Cliff

Maine's pain is Canada's gain
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 26, 2019 12:47 AM CDT
Tariffs Pinch US Lobster Exports
In this Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, photo lobsterman Bill Matthews tosses back an undersized lobster while fishing off Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport, Maine.   (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

US lobster exports to China have fallen off a cliff this year as new retaliatory tariffs shift the seafood business farther north. China, a huge and growing customer for lobster, placed heavy tariffs on US lobsters—and many other food products—in July 2018 amid rising trade hostilities between Beijing and the Trump administration. Meanwhile, business is booming in Canada, where cargo planes are coming to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick, to handle a growing bump in exports. Canadian fishermen catch the same species of lobster as American lobstermen, who are based mostly in Maine. The loss of business has brought layoffs to some Maine businesses, such as The Lobster Co., of Arundel, where owner Stephanie Nadeau has laid off half the 14 people she once had working in wholesale.

"They picked winners, and they picked losers, and they picked me a loser," Nadeau tells the AP. "There is no market that's going to replace China." America has exported less than 2.2 million pounds of lobster to China this year through June, according to data from the federal government. The country exported nearly 12 million pounds during that same period last year. That's a more than 80% drop. In Canada, exports to China through June were already approaching 33 million pounds, which is nearly as much as all of 2018. The boost to business has helped the industry in Canada but also led to uncertainty about its future, said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada. The American and Canadian lobster industries overlap, with some businesses operating on both sides of the border, and it's more beneficial to the lobster industry at large for trade to go on unimpeded, he says. "Everybody would like to see the entire lobster industry open and free," Irvine says.

(More lobster stories.)

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