Plenty of fish in the sea, but some eaten at holiday meals cost more this year

Dec. 21—Maria Minella shopped at Schiff's Marketplace on Tuesday night to stock up for an upcoming family tradition.

The Madison Twp. resident purchased smelts, scallops and smoked whiting from the Scranton store on North Main Avenue. They were a bit pricier than in years past, but that didn't matter much to her.

"We like to do seven fishes for Christmas Eve," she said. "It's special for the holidays, so you pay a little extra to keep up with the family tradition."

While prices of some fish are rising, the cost of other traditional Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve staples is dropping, according to area grocers.

Lobster tail and crab meat prices dipped this year after costs spiked in 2021, said Mark Bradigan, director of operations for Gerrity's Supermarkets

The price for an 8-ounce lobster tail at Gerrity's is $13.99, down from $17.99 last year, Bradigan said. Meanwhile, a 1-pound can of lump crab meat costs $14.99, a whopping $10 drop from last year.

"As all the restaurants reopened last year, demand increased and there was inflation and a lot of labor and supply chain issues that drove the costs up significantly," Bradigan said.

Other fish traditionally served at holiday meals haven't seen prices drop. Bradigan said haddock prices increased $2 to $3 a pound since 2020. The price of king crab legs shot up 50% to 60% last year.

"They're still very, very expensive," Bradigan said. "We're paying $40 a pound and four or five years ago we could get them for $20 or $25 a pound."

Eric Martinelli, food service operations manager for Schiff's in Scranton, noticed higher demand for seafood this year, specifically for king crab legs .

"It seems like the prices kind of fluctuated back down this year," he said. "Lobster prices have definitely come down from where they were last year, and crab prices have come down."

Demand for seafood and fresh fish at Gerrity's is about the same as in 2021.

"We find people are very loyal to their traditions and the products they buy around the holidays," Bradigan said.

At a stand outside Schiel's Family Market on Hanover Street in Wilkes-Barre Tuesday morning, co-owner Gary Schiel was busy selling seafood to customers getting ready for a holiday feast.

Shrimp prices are about the same as last year while lobster prices dropped a few dollars per pound, Schiel said. Popular sellers include 8-ounce lobster tails for $13.99 and 1-pound bags of shrimp for $6.99, he said.

West Pittston resident Dave Joyce stopped by to pick up 2 pounds of shrimp for a traditional seafood dinner with his family on Christmas Eve.

Joyce said prices didn't seem higher than normal but said if they were, it wouldn't make him change his plans.

"It's not going to stop us during the holidays," Joyce said. "You still take care of your family even if it takes a little bit more to get through the holiday. When you're celebrating with family, you want to be able to have things they like and splurge a little bit."

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