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Florida Lobster Exports Halted by Coronavirus, Local Seafood Lovers Benefit

China and Florida are half a world apart, yet China is a huge consumer of Spiny Caribbean lobster. These “Dragon Shrimp” race from Miami to China in less than two days, arriving alive. 

A 2018 trade feud threatened this profitable venture. Now, just as it’s lifted, a pandemic has brought it to a halt. 

Floridian Lobster fisheries have been waiting 18 months for China to lift tariffs on American seafood imports. This week, they were lifted by Beijing. Unfortunately, the COVID19 outbreak has stopped sales once again. 

Lobster is considered an auspicious dish.  With the Coronavirus outbreak, however, Lunar New Year, weddings, and even restaurants are shut down. No one is buying celebratory lobster. Even if buyers wanted lobster, the planes that deliver lobster overseas are grounded.

Lobster season continues through March. Over 80-90% of spiny Lobsters caught off the coast of Florida are shipped to China, because they pay double the market price.When the market in Wuhan closed, lobster went from $12/lb to around $7/lb. All lobsters sold now will be frozen.

For many fishermen, the lower sale point makes lobstering unprofitable. The cost of fuel and crew alone may cost a lobster fisherman up to $1000 per day.  

For now, most fishermen are docked while some will take what they can get, many selling to local supply houses and restaurants. Hopefully, when the season reopens in August, the market will recover.

In the meantime, Florida Seafood lovers may benefit from this misfortunate as supply and demand drives Florida spiny lobster prices lower. According to CBS12, “there are now hundreds of thousands of pounds of spiny lobster up for grabs at rock-bottom prices.”

Read more from the New York Times.

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