American exporters say lobster shipments to European countries including France, Italy and Spain are down because of the strong dollar and a less-than-festive economy overseas.

Lobsters are a Christmas tradition in several European countries, where supermarkets rely on the crustaceans to draw shoppers around the holidays. But American shippers say they are in the midst of a weak year.

The trend reflects a broader slide in the amount of lobster the U.S. is sending to Europe. Live and frozen shipments to Spain valued at more than $63 million in 2007 fell to less than $40 million last year. The value of live lobster shipments to Europe through October has also dipped this year compared to last.

Boston-area shipper Mike Tourkistas says the price of lobsters to European consumers is rising.