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Coronavirus Sinking Lobster Prices? Fisherman Says Demand Is All Dried Up

NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA) — The coronavirus may be sinking one California industry.

For generations, Scott Breneman's family has run the Dory Fishing Fleet Market in Newport Beach — catching fish off the coast and selling it to locals and restaurant owners who line up at 5 a.m. This year, however, they took a huge hit. Shipments of the shellfish to China have dropped dramatically, he says.

"It just killed the market," Breneman noted of the coronavirus.

Breneman's biggest customers during the Chinese New Year are local and overseas Asian restaurants. When fears of the virus hit, there was little demand for the popular spiny lobster. Other fish, he says, are now selling for half of what they're worth.

"It's definitely affected us. Especially in the Chinese new year. It just fell at a really bad time ... the busiest two to three weeks of the year," Breneman said.

Up and down the California coast, it's the same story. There's fallout from the coronavirus where you'd least expect it: local fisherman trying to make a living suddenly forced to sell their spiny lobsters for much less — retailing for $16 per pound in some cases.

It's so bad, many have just stopped fishing.

"[The] Chinese restaurants I deal with ... price just cut in half. And a lot of the fishermen felt it wasn't worth it and almost kind of went on strike," Breneman explained.

Still, these fisherman may not have to worry about these sinking prices for long. Lobster season wraps up at the end of the month.

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