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Economy

US-China Trade Tensions Mean Tough Times For Local Lobster Industry

Spiny lobsters sit inside of a crate at Apex Wild Seafood in San Diego, Oct. 8, 2018.
Matt Hoffman/KPBS
Spiny lobsters sit inside of a crate at Apex Wild Seafood in San Diego, Oct. 8, 2018.

As President Donald Trump continues to negotiate a truce to his trade war with China, tariffs are still affecting the local lobster industry in a big way.

The average price paid to fishermen for spiny lobsters, which are caught off the San Diego coastline, is on average $12 per pound this season. That’s nearly half of what they were going for a couple of years ago, according to industry data.

The reason for this is the vast majority of the spiny lobsters caught here are shipped to China, where they are considered a delicacy. But the tariffs China levies on these lobsters, which are different from Maine lobsters, have reached 35 percent.

US-China Trade Tensions Mean Tough Times For Local Lobster Industry

RELATED: Most Lobsters Caught In San Diego Wind Up On Chinese Plates

This would have been John Conniff’s ninth consecutive year of lobster fishing in San Diego. But it didn’t pencil out for him this year.

“Once I found out what the opening price was going to be I quit my hunt (for another lobster boat captain)," said Conniff, who owns Islander Sportsfishing.

But what might be bad news for local lobstermen is good news for locals looking for deals on spiny lobsters.

“It’s about $10 a pound cheaper than I’ve seen in years past,” Conniff said. “It’s a great time to buy lobsters.”

At Catalina Offshore Products in Mission Bay, spiny lobsters are listed for sale Monday at $25.99 a pound. At one point, they were sold for up to $40 a pound.

Conniff said he hopes a silver lining for the industry is that the low prices lead more people to support local fishermen.

“There’s only give or take 240 lobster fisherman between San Diego and Santa Barbara,” he said. “So it’s a small community and I’d like to think that what we catch there’s a home for here locally if we could just raise awareness.”

US-China Trade Tensions Mean Tough Times For Local Lobster Industry
Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.