It’s getting to the point where if you have to ask the price for a lobster trap, you probably can’t afford it. The price has shot up in the past three years, largely due to Covid labor shortages and supply chain issues, but also most recently because of the war in Ukraine and skyrocketing inflation.
Adam Jackson at Sea Rose Trap in Biddeford just shakes his head when he talks about lobster trap prices. Right now a bare bones Sea Rose 12 gauge wire trap with no bells or whistles runs around $140. The company can’t even get trap kits. “The last time we got kits in was six months ago,” Jackson said. Much of the wire comes from Italy. “It’s supply chain stuff,” Jackson said. “Italy can’t get containers to ship the wire out.”
Expenses are up across the board, according to Stephen Brooks, a co-owner of Brooks Trap Mill in Thomaston. The cost of wire has risen sharply but so have freight costs, both international and domestic. “Our freight costs are up between 300% and 500%,” Brooks said. “Shipping has gone from $3,000 to $4,000 to $25,000 to $30,000 per load.” Domestic freight charges have increased in response to the higher cost of fuel throughout the country. “We just got a shipment this week. The cost was up 30% from the last shipment, two or three months ago,” Brooks said.
An average new Brooks trap, if there is such a thing, would cost a lobsterman slightly more than $100 at the moment. But most lobstermen prefer traps that are modified to fish well in their particular part of the coast or offshore area, with additional components that add to overall price. “We just finished an order this week and those traps were $168 apiece,” Brooks said. “The same traps were around $120 eighteen months ago.”
Supply chain problems loom large in the mind of Mike Dean at Friendship Trap (now part of Brooks Trap Mill). “Some of our wire comes from Italy. Shipping costs are way up but also the wire. Italy used to get its steel from Ukraine. Now with the war they are sourcing it from Germany and it’s more expensive,” Dean said. “We’re really between a rock and a hard place.”
In addition to shipping and material costs, the costs to run a business have increased sharply. Labor costs are up, according to Brooks, as well as health insurance, workman’s compensation, insurance on company vehicles, and electricity costs. “Fuel is a big part of it,” Brooks said. “Fuel is obviously hurting everyone. When you add the shipping costs to the material costs, it’s scary.”