“Why isn’t that lobster bright red?’ So many visitors who come to Maine have asked that question when viewing live lobsters in a tank thanks to a century of postcards, children’s books and illustrations that depict Maine’s famous crustacean as bright crimson.
The fact is the natural colors of most live lobsters are a mottled greenish brown to blackish brown, which helps conceal them on the ocean floor from predators. They get their shell color from a class of red and yellow pigments called astaxanthin. Without getting too scientific, when lobsters are cooked, the proteins that astaxanthin bind to are destroyed, changing the shell colors to a red pigment. That’s why so many people think Maine lobster is naturally red.
That said, imagine how surprised a visitor to Maine might be to see a lobster that is electric blue? According to oceanographers, only an estimated one in 2 million lobsters is blue. In 2016, a Massachusetts lobsterman found one in his traps, which caught the attention of ABC News. In this case, a genetic abnormality caused the lobster to produce an excessive amount of a particular protein. Most of these rare lobsters are spared the boiling pot and sent to aquariums, but even if a blue lobster is cooked, its shell changes to red.
Rarer than that, if you can believe it, is a naturally brilliant red colored lobster -again, a genetic abnormality - which occurs in one in 10 million cases.
But hang on, the blue and red showstoppers have nothing on the yellow and calico lobsters (with mottled orange and black shells), which oceanographers estimate are one in 30 million.
Want to up the odds even more? Try finding a “split” colored lobster, that is, a lobster whose coloring is split evenly down its entire body and claws with one half orange and one half brown. The last time one of those was discovered, it was caught by a Maine lobsterman in 2006, who gave it to an oceanarium. The oceanarium said in 35 years, they’ve only seen three split lobsters. The chances of catching one is one in 50 million!
So, that’s got to be it, right? Nope, there’s one more lobster that is rarest of them all – one with no color at all. An albino lobster, of which there are one in 100 million, was just caught by another Maine lobsterman last summer. Albino lobsters are the only ones without pigment, so if it had been cooked, it would have still been white when done.
But true to the conservation methods of Maine lobstermen, this “ghost” albino lobster which was female and had a V notch in her flipper (a previous marking to signal that she’d been already caught once and was carrying eggs) had to be tossed back into the ocean. Let’s hope, because she stands out like a sore thumb to predators, that she still roams free today!
Blog and photo courtesy Maine Lobster Festival
There is a scene in The Ghost Trap where the characters talk about some of the more outlandish questions tourists have ever asked lobstermen...such as "why do all the boats point the same way?" and "What time of year do the deer turn into moose?" True stories, all of them..and that's why they made it into the book.
Well I belong to a private FB page for lobstermen and they shared this photo, along with more stories in the comments. Note: Names have been left off to protect the members' privacy.
"I was once asked if I set all my traps in the morning and then bring them all home at night."
"Lololol I was pulling a half tote of cod up the dock one time and a tourist looked in the tote and asked what kind of fish is that??? I replied codfish... her lady friend told me I was wrong... those are Trout 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂"
"My wife overheard a conversation between two tourist that went like this. "What are the painted objects floating in the water?" "They're lobster buoys, see how some are laying down and some are standing?' "Yes" "When a lobster walks in a trap it causes the buoy to stand, that's how lobstermen know which traps to haul." True story."
"Lmao... I was eating at the weather vane once and the guy in back of us was saying he knows everything about lobsters... so I listened he told his girlfriend for starters they don’t go any deeper than 20 feet... I stopped listening 😂😂😂"
TENANTS HARBOR—When Scotland beachcomber Martin Gray went walking along one of his favorite beaches, Billiacru last week, about two miles from Stromness, the little fishing port where he grew up, he spied an orange plastic tag with the name C. Morris and the number #167 on it. An avid beachcomber since he was a teenager, he knew immediately what it was.
“We find lobstering gear from all along the eastern seaboard of North America, from Labrador to Rhode Island,” he said. “Maine gear is probably the largest single cohort (followed by Newfoundland/Labrador and Massachusetts) and includes escape vents, trap tags, TopMe tags, buoys, Plante sticks and pot heads.”
The little piece of plastic, was in fact, a dislodged trap tag owned by Corey Morris, 35, a lobsterman from Tenants Harbor. It had traveled roughly 3,000 miles through the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift that spins gear out across the Atlantic to Europe.
Excited to locate the owner of his find, Gray posted a photo of the tag on his Facebook page Orkney Beachcombing.
“In many ways, Facebook is an almighty pain in the backside full of bland truisms, peoples’ dinners and soppy kittens,” Gray said. “But, for finding connections, it is unsurpassed. I posted a photo on my Facebook page of a Massachusetts float found here yesterday. I had the owners name in seven minutes. I find that absolutely staggering!”
As for Morris, he was just working in his garage, repainting all of his buoys and getting his gear readied for the season when his Facebook notifications went crazy. Maine followers of Gray’s Facebook page notified Morris that Gray wanted to get in touch with him so he did.
What makes this find special is that this tag “C. Morris #167” was also his grandfather’s initials and original license number. Charles "Charlie" Morris was the 167th person in the state of Maine to be issued a lobster license. The year before Charlie passed away, he transferred his license number to his then-six-year-old grandson, Corey. If he hadn't done that, the license would have been considered a lost or retired license.
”I was already in an outboard with my dad at that age,” said Morris. “I couldn't even haul the trap then I was so little. I can remember going home in the evenings and hauling 10 traps with my dad. He's now held his lobster license for 29 years. Current regulations don't allow lobster fishermen to transfer tags to family members any more, so #167 will retire with Morris. "If I wanted to give my daughter mine, I couldn't,” he explained. “She'd have to go into the lottery and get a five or six digit number."
"I noticed in Martin's picture that the holes of the tag are intact, so it didn't look like the hog ring ripped off," said Morris. He declined to say how it could have come off but every lobsterman who has had his gear molested, and tags ripped out to keep the trap (which runs around $100 per trap) knows it's a distinct possibility that the tag was deliberately cut out and discarded into the ocean.
Asked about his grandfather would have handled that, Morris said, "They didn't have tags when he was fishing. Back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, they would've shot somebody if someone stole a trap. They took care of it themselves. They didn't need Marine Patrol and you wouldn't have the wording on the tag about imprisonment (for molesting gear.)"
Things have really changed since his grandfather’s day, he said. "Everything was built from scratch, wooden round traps, knit heads. They were happy to catch a crate a day and today, we have to catch several hundred pounds a day just to earn our living, but you know the money was different back in those days too.”Gray has seen more trash float in on his beaches from the U.S. than he cares to, but when it comes to fishing gear, that’s different.
“The finds from Maine fishermen are special because I know that what reaches us from there isn't really litter,” he said. “Almost all of it was lost against the wishes of the fisherman, with very little casually thrown away. The escape vents float free but that is a conservation measure to render lost ghost pots nonlethal to marine life. A brilliant plan! We have nothing like it here. There's no such thing as ‘good litter,’ but escape vents come very close! I make clear distinctions between plastic in the sea that has been willfully dumped, lost by neglect or mismanagement and lost by accident. Maine pot gear is almost all lost by accident.”
Gray has been working the last five years to display the best of his beach finds into finds over the last few years into a museum.
“Finding Corey’s tag has been the highlight of my beachcombing winter,” Gray said. “It has a very special tale behind it and I can see it being a star exhibit one day.”
-Story and photos by Kay Stephens
Related story: Maine’s treasures (and trash) wash up on Ireland’s shores
HISTORIC INNS OF ROCKLAND JOIN MAINE LOBSTER PROMOTION COUNCIL & PENOBSCOT BAY REGIONAL CHAMBER TO CELEBRATE LOBSTER HARVEST WITH LOBSTERPALOOZA
Mark August 26-31 on the calendar to celebrate all things lobster in Rockland & Camden
Rockland, ME – Cheryl Michaelsen, owner of the Berry Manor Inn in Rockland, ME, couldn’t stand to sit by and watch on the sidelines as lobstermen and women in this Midcoast, Maine town caught near record lobster hauls while traditional Canadian markets rejected them. The result, as we all know, has meant prices have dropped while lobster remains in abundance this summer. Michaelsen turned to her fellow colleagues at the Historic Inns of Rockland and said “Let’s turn lobsters into Lobsteraid!” Lobsterpalooza was the brainstorm of the four progressive Historic Inns of Rockland who then enlisted support from the Maine Lobster Promotion Council and the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce to raise enthusiasm for eating lobster and celebrating an abundant supply in the Midcoast this summer. Lobsterpalooza is a weeklong celebration of lobster taking place August 26-31 in Rockland, Camden and surrounding towns where businesses celebrate the lobster harvest with everything from a crustacean cash mob to featured specials, events and more. Lobsterpalooza is just one of the many events happening during the Maine Lobster Lovers Celebration, a promotion created by the Maine Lobster Promotion Council.
“It makes sense that we’d hold Lobsterpalooza in Rockland and Camden,” said Michaelsen, “After all, we are the self-proclaimed lobster capital of the universe! This is our way of reminding residents and travelers alike how lucky we are to enjoy the abundant supply of lobster here this summer,” finished Michaelsen.
To date nearly 40 restaurants, spas and retail stores have signed on to feature lobster for the Lobsterpalooza week with everything from a free lobster with special spa treatments at spas to a lobster off the boat from Captain Jack’s Lobster Adventures. The four Historic Inns of Rockland will feature lobster on the breakfast menu during Lobsterpalooza week, while offering specially discounted tickets for lobster adventures. A number of restaurants including Café Miranda, Sweets and Meats Market and In Good Company, Bricks Restaurant, Amalfi by the Water and many additional restaurants will feature new lobster entrees on the menu along with old favorites. Additionally, Crustacean Cash Mobs will be held at Jess’s Market on Tuesday, August 28th andShip to Shore Lobster Company in Owl’s Head on Thursday, , August 30th .. Cash mobs are the perfect way to support local, independent businesses, and in this case local fishermen. Simply plan to buy lobster on August 28th from Jess’s Market and August 30th from Owl’s Head’s Ship to Shore Lobster Co.. Additionally, Cellardoor Winery will feature a Lobster Lover’s cooking class on August 31 and All Aboard Trolley Company will offer a special “Nap-AH and Lob-STAH” Wine tour on Monday, August 27th .
Lobsterpalooza will feature a drawing for a Lobster Lover’s Getaway to be enjoyed in June, 2013. Sign up to win at all participating businesses.
No purchase is necessary and a winner will be drawn at the close of Lobsterpalooza week. The lucky winner will receive a grand prize June 2013 Lobster Lover’s Getaway including:
· Two nights accommodations at a choice of four Historic Inns of Rockland, sometime in June 2013
· Breakfast each morning.
· Two Got Lobster T-shirts, lobster hats and chocolate lobsters
· Tour of Ship to Shore Lobster Company pound and lobster dinner for two on the docks
· $50 gift certificate to Café Miranda for Lobster Mac n Cheese or choice of other lobster entrée
· Two tickets for Captain Jack’s Lobster Adventure
· A lobster lovers gift basket filled with offers and gift certificates from many other Rockland businesses (including Archers on the Pier, Waterworks Restaurant, Sweets and Meats, Clan MacLaren)
Participating businesses will post Lobsterpalooza posters in the windows. Entry forms will be available at participating businesses and at Camden and Rockland visitor centers.
Here’s the full line up of the events celebrating lobster during Lobsterpalooza:
August 27: All Aboard Trolley Nap-AH and LOB-Stah Winery Tour – enjoy wine and lobster tastings.
August 28: All day: Jess’s Market Cash Mob, Rockland– Plan to buy local to support local fishermen
August 28: 2-3pm: Between Fact and Fiction: The Subculture of Maine Lobstermen, Breakwater Room at the Maine Lighthouse Museum: K. Stephens, a Midcoast author of The Ghost Trap will host a presentation/fiction reading about Maine's lobstermen. The Ghost Trap (Leapfrog Press, 2009) follows the haunting story of Jamie Eugley, a young lobsterman struggling with the grinding responsibilities of a head-injured fiancée and mounting trap wars in a fictional setting based around Tenants Harbor, Spruce Head, Port Cyde and Friendship.
August 30: Ship to Shore Lobster Cash Mob, Owl’s Head – Plan to enjoy lobster today from this local lobster pound
August 31: Oceanside Mariner Home Opener Lobster Industry Recognition at Half Time
Lobster-Lovers Cooking Class at Cellardoor Winery (advanced reservations required)
photo: Eat Maine FB page
Well folks, this is an interesting summer to be in Maine. Because of a glut of spring lobsters caught, an abysmally low price for the catch and the fact that lobster is now cheaper than freakin' bologna right now, we have what is called an unspoken "tie-up." This is a fascinating chess move where lobstermen up and down the coast refuse to go hauling, but are forbidden to collude or pressure anyone from going out. The few folks I've spoken to who will naturally remain anonymous say that despite what you may think, this has been very peaceful. No trap molestation, no underground wars. These people work HARD and they're getting screwed. So do your part, buy some lobster this week; let's run down this glut, run up the price so these guys can go out fishing again! I'm including a column by Working Waterfront's Philip Conkling here, which explains how this has all gone down.
The Great Silent Lobster Tie Up
July 12, 2012 Column Long View
by Philip Conkling
This morning on Vinalhaven was eerily silent as the sky lightened in the east. No gulls keened, no ravens croaked and no muffled diesels thrummed on their way out of Carver’s Harbor. On the way to the morning ferry, little knots of lobstermen stood on the post office steps, in front of the Odd Fellows Hall and at the large parking lot where lobstermen park their trucks on their way to their boats.
As the 7 a.m. ferry pulled away from its pen, another half dozen lobster boats were similarly frozen in place in Sands Cove, along with a dozen more in Old Harbor and a few others at Dyer Island. When the ferry passed through Lairy’s Narrows and churned its way across West Penobscot Bay, no North Haven lobster boats were hauling off Crabtree Point. All the way down the bay past the lobster harbors of Owls Head, the Weskeag, and Sprucehead, the horizon was completely empty, as was the case from Rockland to Rockport to Camden on the western shore. It would be an exaggeration to say that the scene was like the empty skies the day after 9-11, but there is a similarity.
So how did this unprecedented cooperation among fishermen throughout a huge lobster fishing area happen? No one is saying, and for a good reason. It’s called the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which prohibits collusion among businesses on practices that influence price. Since virtually all Maine lobstermen are independent businessmen, the law theoretically prohibits any lobstermen from talking to another and agreeing not to go fishing. That’s called “restraint of trade” and led to the conviction of Leslie Dyer, the first head of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, in federal court in 1958. It was a thunderously unpopular verdict, but has left a bitter enough legacy during the last half century that even talkative lobstermen run silent and deep when it comes to any mention of tie up.
The issue, however, is sensitive enough that Maine’s Commissioner of Marine Resources, Pat Kelliher, just released a statement cautioning any fishermen from issuing threats of force against any other fishermen who might continue to haul their traps. In the deafening silence of how the great silent lobster tie up has been be achieved, the “coconut wireless” has been unusually active. One such story is that a fisherman in one unnamed harbor hired a small plane to conduct surveillance to find out which boats were still fishing. Woe unto him.
The real explanation for the unprecedented inactivity in lobster fishing communities along much of the Maine coast is both simple and complicated. The simple explanation is price. Lobsters that a year ago were fetching only $2.50 per pound—a historically low price for this time of year, have fallen in many harbors to as low as $1.50 per pound. Almost nothing in the universe can create unanimity among lobstermen, but lobster prices have not been at such a low point for approximately 30 years. With prices this low, it is simply not worth leaving the dock.
The more complicated part of the story concerns why prices have plummeted to this abyssal level. And there the explanations are varied, each containing a piece of the truth. To begin with, the lobster shedder season started six weeks early this year in southern Maine after an eerie warm spell that lasted most of March. Lobster processors buy shedders to sell as claw and knuckle or lobster tail packs because they are cheaper than hard shells. Not only have the shedders come early, but their percentage of the landings has also increased—upwards of 70 percent in some harbors throughout May and June. Hard shell lobsters command as much as $2 more a pound than shedders, so typically in June, a lobstermen’s average price for his catch might hover around $3.50 per pound with a mix of shedders and hard shells. After the Fourth of July, when upwards of 90 percent of lobsters are shedders and their price is so depressed, well…you have to decide whether it is worth it to go fishing.
Added to this unhappy state of affairs, is that a number of lobster processors in Atlantic Canada have gone under in recent years, which has further reduced the demand for Maine’s shedders. Canadian lobstermen, who only fish in early spring and late fall, also reportedly landed larger catches than usual and filled much of the existing Canadian demand.
Then there is the state of the general economy. Few people realize that two of the biggest markets for Maine lobsters are the all-you-can-eat cruise lines and national restaurant chains like Red Lobster. The cruise lines have not distinguished themselves this year after the Costa Concordia ran aground in the Mediterranean and Seafood Business News recently published a story detailing how Red Lobster is overhauling its menu to appeal to more cost-conscious diners, which cannot bode well for the lobster industry.
And now for the real kicker: after many decades of self-imposed lobster conservation measures by the lobster industry, the population of lobsters crawling about the bottom of every bay, sound, thorofare, and tidal river is at a historic high. Just when the demand for Maine lobsters has slackened, the supply has gone off the charts, with the inevitable result of declining prices. So lobstermen have to decide it they want to address the fundamental structural business issue they face: they fish hardest for lobsters when the seasonal prices are lowest. In the long run, prices are only affected either by increasing demand—a long and expensive process—or by reducing supply—a painful and discouraging process. There are no silver bullets.
Almost three years ago, the governor’s lobster task force recommended a joint public-private strategy to invest in the “Maine” part of the state’s tarnished lobster brand, which has many imitators nationally (including fraudulent ones) and a lackluster reputation internationally. But lobstermen were just recovering from the shock of the onset of the Great Recession and balked at the recommendation of a five cent a pound levy on landed, brokered and processed lobsters to create a significant marketing and branding fund. The Lobster Advisory Council has recently resurrected a discussion about this strategy at meetings along the coast during the past month.
With lobstermen caught between the pincher of low prices and the crusher of increased fuel and bait costs, few expect to see a groundswell of enthusiasm for making a new investment under current price conditions, which are unlikely to improve very much anytime soon, or to reduce fishing days during the shedder season or some combination thereof. But then, you have to ask yourself, when is it a good time to invest in your business and brand? If you did not invest when times were good and your wallet was fat, what will you do when your back is against the wall?
Philip Conkling is President and Founder of the Island Institute based in Rockland, Maine.
While some of us are celebrating with green beer today, others are celebrating a timely release from their long-suffering prisons made from galvanized wire. Yes--it's Crustacean Liberation Day for hundreds of lobsters in Maine! As the Coast Guard's "Ghost Gear Cleanup" Project is underway early reports show lobsters wriggling out of traps that have long remained on the bottom of the ocean floor.
Lobstermen, marine patrol join Coast Guard in 'ghost gear' cleanup
By Shlomit Auciello | Mar 17, 2011
Penobscot Bay — Owls Head lobstermen Scott Herrick, Donald Williams and Rob McMahan joined Maine Marine Patrol officers Brian Tolman and Matt Sinclair aboard the Coast Guard Buoy Tender Abbie Burgess Monday, March 14 as part of an ongoing effort to retrieve large clusters of lobster gear from the bottom of the sea off the coast of Maine. So-called "ghost gear" can be a hazard to navigation, and often collects in areas that would be otherwise productive lobster bottom.
The combined team hauled and sorted 80 lobster traps that had gathered into a series of knotted bunches that Chief Warrant Officer Paul Dupuis, commander of the Abbie Burgess, referred to as a "gaggle." The traps were located at two spots at the bottom of Penobscot Bay between Fisherman Island and Vinalhaven. A third group of sunken traps was not located due to the height of the tide.
The collected traps, many of which were on the bottom of Penobscot Bay for at least three years, were identified by their owner's trap tag number and name. The lobstermen planned to take the traps to the Ship to Shore parking lot in Owls Head, where they were to be picked up by their original owners.
Tolman said the traps found belonged to Jay Ross, Mike Rogers, Dick Carver, Tim Lindahl, Maynard Curtis, F. J. O'Hara, Rob McMahan, Vance McMahan, Jeff Woodman, Justin Philbrook, Shane Hatch, Jeff Edwards and Matt Mills.
Dupuis, referred to the event as "crustacean liberation" day. Lobsters ranging in size from those appearing to weigh as much as three pounds to much smaller examples that some refer to as Matinicus shrimp were all sent back to the bottom of the bay, along with a variety of starfish, crabs and other marine life.
Shortly before the Abbie Burgess departed from its wharf, Coast Guard personnel received word that the No. 11 buoy off Monroe Island was no longer showing a beacon. When the Abbie Burgess
Coast Guard personnel replaced the beacon and made plans to return later to replace the bell and conduct routine maintenance.
For more information about ghost gear recovery efforts, contact the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation at gomlf.org or call 985-8088.
The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
An estimated 4,260 lobster fishermen in Maine caught a record number of lobsters this year, (93 million pounds, up from 81 million in 2009) worth $308.7 million. Not since the late 1990s and early 2000s has the state seen this kind of boon.
Scientists are crediting unusually warm water, which allowed lobsters to molt earlier--for an earlier catch in July--a month sooner than usual. An easing of state rules combined with a long-coming lobster population growth also factored in.
What lobstermen are saying everywhere, "I had a pretty good year." After recent years, that's fantastic to hear.
source: New York Times
If this article tells you anything, lobstering is right up there with Alaskan crab fishing as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. 155 people died in the last decade on commercial fishing vessels nationally. Vessel disasters and crew members falling overboard were the leading causes of fatalities in this latest report. And at the end of this year, we just lost another one of our own Maine lobstermen when he got entangled in lobster line and was pulled overboard.
Maybe what I'm saying is patently obvious, but for so many people who came up this summer to specifically have their Maine lobster, I continue to post stories like these to show you exactly what goes into that steamed crustacean on that plate. It is a backbreaking, perilous profession and the men and women who are born into this life, work at it every day and put their lives at risk for this status symbol dish deserve a little attention for their efforts now and then.
As promised, I will continue to feature the more fascinating Maine lobstermen that keep this industry alive and well. Meet Ginny Oliver. She'll give your grammy a run for her money. Story courtesy of The Free Press.
A Day in the Life of Maine Lobster Boat Racing
Columns and news about the subculture of Maine lobstering.