China's Lobster Market (Photo : Getty Images)
China’s lobster market continues to expand, with the country making a new record high for U.S. lobster imports.
For a long time, most of China did not know of American lobster. But in 2010, the value of lobster imports increased by 250 percent, amounting to about $7.4 million.
Last year, Chinese importers brought in more than $108 million worth of lobsters from America, beating the $90.2 record high in 2014.
"We've opened new markets in Asia, which is booming," Maine Lobstermen's Association President Dave Cousens said.
"Everything is clicking now," he added.
In 2015, China imported more than 14 million pounds of American lobsters, beating the previous year’s about 13.1 million pounds.
U.S. lobster’s appeal has also increased in other countries as well. South Korea’s imports have grown from less than $5 million in 2010 to almost $28 million last year. In the same period, Vietnam’s imports increased from $142,940 to more than $31 million.
According to Stephanie Nadeau, owner of The Lobster Company, one of the growth drivers of China’s lobster market seems to be the growth of the country’s middle class. The Lobster Company, located in Arundel, Maine, is one of the major lobster exporters.
American lobsters are likely expensive in China than other live seafood, such as spiny lobsters and geoduck clams, Nadeau said.
"It's kind of an affordable luxury," she said.
"One of my customers said our lobsters are one of the cheapest things in the live tanks," Nadeau added.
Maine is America’s largest lobster producer. Last year, fishermen from Maine made an all-time record with 130 million pounds of lobsters caught. This was more than double the 2007 total lobster catch.
Atlantic Canada also has a huge lobster fishery and exports the same species of lobster to China.
According to Patrick Keliher, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, "The Asian market is a key component."
China’s lobster market for 2017 is not likely to decrease, with 1.7 million pounds ($14 million) of U.S. lobster imports in January.