While the lack of lobsters in Long Island Sound means commercial lobster fishing along the Connecticut shore has just about hit rock bottom, Maine has an entirely different problem: too many lobsters.
There are so many lobsters in Maine waters right now that dockside prices have plunged to as low as $1.25 per pound. That's so cheap that many Maine lobstermen have been refusing to take their boats out, arguing that the money they can get for lobsters won't even pay their gas and other expenses.
The lobsters that are swamping Maine's industry are soft-shell lobsters that have molted and are regrowing their shells.
Connecticut lobster eateries and suppliers say the super-abundance of Maine lobsters really isn't reducing prices here because what consumers in this state want are hard-shell lobsters.
"We only sell hard-shell, deep-water lobsters," says Jerry Doran, an employee at Atlantic Seafood in Old Saybrook. He says most of the lobsters at that operation come from Georges Bank off Cape Cod, and the price last week was holding steady at $9.99 a pound.
"A soft-shell lobster isn't an attractive lobster to sell whole," explains Deirdre Mears, one of the owners of Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, a Groton waterfront institution for three decades.
Most of Abbott's lobsters come out of Canada, Mears says. "Local [Connecticut] boats don't bring in the sizes, or enough of the sizes that our customers want," she says. According to Mears, the price she pays for her lobsters hasn't changed in months.
Hard-shell lobsters also provide more meat than soft-shells, according to Mears. One pound-and-a-half hard-shell will provide as much meat as two pound-and-a-quarter soft-shell lobsters, she says. Mears says that, even if she's paying $4 per pound more for hard-shell lobsters, "It's worth it to me and to my customers."
At the moment, Abbott's is selling a steamed one-and-a-quarter-pound lobster for $17.95, and you'll pay $22.50 for a one-and-a-half-pound lobster.