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Lobster could double in price if EU bans imports

21 September 2016 by
Lobster could double in price if EU bans imports

Lobster prices could shoot up if the European Union approves a proposal from the Swedish government to ban lobster imported from the US and Canada.

The risk proposal, which was submitted to be considered by the Invasive Alien Species Act, outlines a concern for native species after over 30 American lobsters were found in Swedish waters.

Paul Harding, managing director of the Colchester Oyster Fishery, said that any ban would lead to a dramatic increase in price.

He added: "At the moment we are paying about £14/15 per kg for native lobsters but I reckon that would at least double in price because there's nowhere near enough native lobsters available to meet demand. Last December we sold about 20 tonnes of Canadian lobster, and if it was banned, we would have nothing to sell."

The ban, if successful, would hit many operators hard.

Restaurant brand Burger & Lobster sells 15 tonnes of lobster a week, and has a 35-tonne capacity lobster tank near Heathrow - the company is said to be the largest importer of live lobster in Europe.

Co-founder Misha Zelman called on the government to clarify the UK's position with regard to EU legislation.

He said: "Around 90% of our lobsters come from Nova Scotia, so this would have a big effect on our company. It is important for us to understand, following the vote to leave the EU, where the UK stands on this. What is the government's position on this proposal? It's a huge issue for us; we have over 1,000 employees in the UK and import large amounts of lobster a year."

The Swedish assessment suggested that live lobsters could be replaced by a frozen product.

But Zelman said that the process affected the product's quality.

"We are proud to supply a live, wild product to our customers," he said. "We would struggle to find local lobster; the population is small and it would be difficult to source the volume of lobsters to meet our demand. We will never find the same quality of lobster in European waters."

Europe imports around 13 thousand metric tonnes of live American lobsters annually from Canada and the US.

Canada has submitted a reaction to the risk assessment with the aim of stopping the ban.

The reaction stated that during 100 years of trading, there has been no evidence of "established, self-sustaining populations" of American lobster in EU waters, or that the species is "able to successfully complete its life cycle".

It suggested that any risks can be addressed by control measures and education about buying live lobsters.

Harding added: "Sweden want to protect their native lobsters, but a ban will have completely the opposite effect. The demand for native lobsters will go through the roof, and as it stands there are no controls on the capture of lobsters in Europe whereas in Canada it's the most regulated fishing industry there is.

Invasive Alien Species are classed as animals or plants that are introduced into an area where they are not native. The invasive species often has negative effects on the environment around it.
The act, which was brought into force in January 2015, aims to prevent, detect and eradicate the flagged invasive species.

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