Ocean temperature is the major factor in lobster availability, and availability is the main influence on wholesale pricing. When the water is warm, lobsters are easier to catch in large numbers, as they move closer to shore. During cold spells, lobsters remain in warmer water further out to sea.
While warm water makes for greater availability, it also can cause softer lobster shells, meaning lower quality lobster. This creates more lobster for lobster tails and use as an ingredient, such as in lobster macaroni and cheese or lobster ravioli, but fewer lobsters suitable for serving whole, so prices for whole lobsters remain high.
Distribution also influences price. The cost of getting the lobster to market varies depending on fuel prices and other transportation costs. Additionally, increased global demand, such as from the Chinese market, raises prices everywhere.