PITTSFIELD -- The weather out at sea is putting lobster-lovers in a pinch by driving up the price.
Stormy, late-winter weather on the East Coast has put a damper on the catch, and the lack of supply means the crustaceans' cost is spiking in markets and restaurants.
"Right now, the weather is brutal," said Charleston Santos, the fish buyer at Guido's Fresh Marketplace on South Street in Pittsfield. "There's nobody out there to catch them, to fish them out."
Live, hard-shell lobsters are supplied to Guido's by True World Foods in New Jersey. The last quote Santos received for a shipment of live lobsters was $12.99 a pound, he said.
Currently, lobsters at Guido's run $14.99 a pound because of the season, but typically sell for between $8.99 and $10.99.
Prices "should be coming down in another month or so," Santos said. "It happens every year."
Last summer, a glut of lobsters led to seriously low prices. Customers bought as many lobsters as they could at about $5.99 per pound retail, but lobstermen took a financial pounding when wholesale prices fell under $3.
Right now, lobster prices are 30 percent higher than this time last year, the head of the Massachusetts Lobsterman's Association this week told Nation's Restaurant News, a publication that covers the dining industry.
Bill Adler told NRN.com that distributors are paying $9.50 to $10.50 per pound, and last year the price was between $6.50 and $7.25.
"I've never seen it this high," Adler told the website.
Boston Seafood Restaurant in North Adams doesn't order as many lobsters from their wholesale supplier in Maine during the winter and early spring, because weeks can go by without a customer ordering one, according to chef-owner Jim Pilot. He said most lobster orders come during summer.
"Prices go down in the summer, especially when they change their shells," Pilot said. From late July through August, "you're pretty much getting hard shells. Hard shells are more expensive."
This year, Pilot has ordered fewer lobsters because prices have doubled in some cases.
"I've never seen prices this high, ever," Pilot said. "I've never seen $13-a-pound lobster."
A manager at Dakota Restaurant on South Street, who declined to give his full name, said the steak and seafood restaurant has recently been selling more lobster tails than full, live lobsters to offset the cost.
Last weekend, Big Y on West Street put chick lobsters -- lobsters under 11 2 pounds -- on sale and were quickly sold out. The lobsters were on sale for $8.88 a pound, or $6.88 a pound with the Big Y silver coin. They usually cost $12.99.
A new shipment of chick lobsters came in Wednesday.
"We had 200 pounds, but they weren't enough," Big Y night manager Bob Norcross said. "We would have sold more if we were able to get more."
Lobsters tails are the "best part," according to Selena Moody, a Pittsfield resident. That's why she was shopping for them this past week at Big Y.
Moody can only eat lobster three or four times a year because it's too expensive.
"It's out of control," she said.
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