STAMFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) -- The summer of 2012 is turning out to be a bonanza for lobster lovers. Record catches north of the Tri-State Area are bringing prices down to unheard of levels.
It's the summer bargain -- part of a cascade of crustaceans that pour down the coast from Maine to a tank near you.
"Right now the price is dropping through the floor," Brett Portier, the owner of The Smokehouse of NY in Mamaroneck, told CBS 2's Lou Young on Thursday. "I mean it's pretty much cheaper than deli meats right now."
The lobstermen call it a "glut." They complain about vanishing profit margins and an unusual pattern in the catch -- lobsters that have prematurely molded are shedding their winter shells.
Portier plans to order soft-shell lobsters to cash in on the glut.
"The mild winter allowed the lobsters to stay inshore, so the whole cycle got moved up and they started to shed earlier," Peter Vorvis, co-owner of New Wave Seafood in Stamford, explained. "It's unprecedented. The guy up in Maine said he hasn't seen this in 40 years of business."
The lobsters may all look the same, but for those who check, they will find that some of them have recently molted. The shells are soft, and wholesalers and retailers really shouldn't be seeing this for another couple of weeks. This year they started showing up back in May, and it's thrown the whole market into chaos.
Those soft-shell lobsters may be sweet, but there are far too many of them and they don't travel well. Cracked shells cut their shelf life, and they have to go now.
As a result, "There are retailers that are doing loss leaders at $3.99 -- virtually at their cost -- to get people in," Tom Grady, the other co-owner of New Wave Seafood, said. "The same animal in a hard-shell form is $3 more a pound, priced at $6.99."
And at the restaurant, where customers pay market price for a shellfish dinner, that means what cost $40 last summer should go for a lot less this season.
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