January 14, 2009
A couple of weeks ago, fishermen off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, pulled up a 20-pound lobster. At that weight, the crustacean was somewhere around 140 years old. But old age didn’t prevent him from being deported, and he was eventually sold to the City Crab and Seafood restaurant in New York for $100. There he was named George and became the restaurant’s mascot, living the New York life ensconced in a fish tank and having his photo taken with tourists.
PETA convinced the restaurant to return George to the sea, though, and this past weekend he was released off the coast of Kennebunkport, Maine. And he should really consider staying there.
That’s because Maine not only has a minimum size requirement (3 1/4″ carapace*) for lobsters caught in its waters, but the state also has a maximum size limit (5” carapace). The minimum gives the lobsters a chance to reproduce before their demise. The maximum, though, (and the additional practice of preserving reproductively successful females regardless of size) is possibly best explained by Trevor Corson in his book The Secret Life of Lobsters:
[By] throwing back any lobster with a carapace over five inches, the lobstermen were populating a sort of sex resort for retirees, open to both male studs and experienced females. When a young female reached puberty, she could keep getting pregnant and earn several punches on her reward card, allowing her to retire to the sex resort for the rest of her days. Having secured membership in the lobstermen’s brood stock, she might easily go on mating and making eggs for another fifty years. Indeed, for the male lobsters that made it to the sex resort, it was probably more like entering lobster heaven.
The lobster population needs the big, old lobsters to keep reproducing and ensure that there are future lobsters. The state of Maine appears to have figured that out and set their rules accordingly.
So, welcome, George, to lobster heaven. Stay in Maine and have lots of lobster babies and we’ll have many yummy lobster meals in the years ahead.
*The carapace is the part of the shell that covers the thorax, that is, the big piece that isn’t the tail.
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