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Local lobster fishermen urged to hold their catches

Local lobster fisherman Barry Levy shows of his "lobster hotel," a tube crate that maintains the quality of the catch longer than conventional crates and allows longer holding of the product, which in turn drives up the price.

COUNTY - In his 1970s hit "The Gambler," singer Kenny Rogers offered some sage advise - "You gotta know when to hold 'em."

According to local fisherman Barry Levy, that philosophy should also apply to the lobster fishery.

In recent years lobster prices have taken a beating, dropping at times to as low as $3.25 a pound, a figure that fishermen say makes their livelihood a losing proposition.

Mr. Levy thinks that can very easily be changed if local lobster fishermen in District 33 and 34 would simply come together in solidarity and hold on to their catches, forcing the price up.

That, he says, can be accomplished without compromising the quality of the catch simply by using tube crates to store the lobsters after they are caught.

"What it is, for a long haul hold, each lobster has its own little square cell," Mr. Levy explains. "The compartments are made of white coroplast ... we call it the lobster hotel."

Internet source thisfish.info says that tube crates mimic the natural hibernation conditions for lobsters and keeps them separated, enabling them to maintain top quality for several months.

Tube crates are not a new invention and have been proven to be the most effective storage devices for lobsters. However, some fishermen prefer not to use them because they are less convenient than conventional crates.

"Last year, $10 [per pound] was paid at the peak. If we all get together this year, and we still got plenty of time ... if we hold off, we will get the $10 this year that they paid us last year, and they really owe us it," Mr. Levy says.

Last week lobster prices reached $7 per pound and several fishermen who were holding their catch decided to sell.

"When it was $3.25 if we had just stopped selling them it wouldn't have been $3.25," Mr. Levy says, adding that the cheapest he sold his lobsters for this year was $6 per pound.

"Some people don't realize that the tube is the best way to hold," he says. "The first time we held in tubes, we held for around three-and-a-half months. We took them out and our mortality rate was this - we had one dead per thousand. The lobsters were the hardest shelled and in the best condition that we had seen."

Mr. Levy said that right now, because his lobsters are tube-crated, they are still in premium condition and should demand a premium price.

"Tubing is the proper way," he says. "If we all hold the lobsters ... it will go to $10, and that's the way it is."

- Robert Hirtle,

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