The mild winter has caused a big boom in the lobster population up in Maine, and while that's good for customers in restaurants charging market price, it's really hurting the state's lobstermen. Because of the glut, the price of soft-shelled lobsters has plummeted to $2.50 a pound, which is half what they were getting a few years ago. At that price, some lobstermen say they can't break even, and a lobster roll purveyor here in NYC tells us, "Lobsterman are going on strike and quitting their jobs, because they can't make enough off the lobster to justify putting gas in their boats."
Lobster processing plants and lobstermen are now dealing with a huge backlog, and NPR reports that lobstermen are begging the Maine's Department of Marine Resources to close down the fishery, but the state does not have the authority to do this. Our lobster purveyor in NYC, who sources his lobster from Maine and asked that we withhold his name, says that stricter enforcement of lobster fishing over the years has also contributed to the glut. "You can't take lobsters that are too small or too big or that have eggs on them or had eggs on them," he explains. "The rules that the industry put in three decades ago to ensure sustainability have resulted in booming population."
At this point, it's unclear if the boom will have any impact on the steep prices of lobster rolls in NYC (here's our guide to the best lobster rolls), but you should see the price of whole lobsters dropping in restaurants. Brett Portier, the owner of The Smokehouse of NY in Mamaroneck, tells CBS 2, "Right now the price is dropping through the floor. I mean it’s pretty much cheaper than deli meats right now.” And in Maine, restaurant owner Bob Coppersmith is charging $16 for a twin lobster dinner, down from $30 last year.