Test-Tube Lobsters

While not especially humorous, the lobster industry was an interesting aspect of a trip to Maine and I want to share it with readers.

I found out more than I ever wanted to know about lobsters in Maine. They are so proud of the hideous creatures that I’m surprised they are not on the state flag. However, a large part of the economy of the state is based on the lobster industry. Maine produces 75% to 80% of all lobsters used in the U.S.

Since lobsters are so economically necessary, they are artificially bred to ensure a large supply of lobsters is available. We visited a lobster hatchery where we met a lobster fisherperson who explained fishing for lobsters. She was not a fisherman but a fisher-woman.

Somehow fishing is not an occupation that I expected a woman to have, and she did admit that it is not something usually done by a female. It seems her husband was a fisherman, and after he passed on she decided to continue the business. She said that she has always been around fishing and the sea and it is the way of life familiar to her. She has her own fishing boat that she takes out to sea.

Lobster fishing is tightly regulated and controlled. Fishers are allowed to have only a certain number of traps and have to fish in a designated area. Lobsters cannot be too small and so the little ones are allowed to escape through an escape hatch in the trap. Lobsters that are too large are sometimes caught in the traps, but they are turned loose as they are the breeders.

Prices for lobsters vary according to how big the catches are for the year. Lobster fishers are not paid nearly as much for the lobsters as people pay at restaurants, she assured us. According to information I have seen, the fishers get only a few dollars a pound for all the trouble of catching them. For every dollar paid to a lobster fisher for a lobster, $3 to $5 is generated for related businesses such as processors, restaurants, marinas and bait suppliers.

The lobsterwoman showed us how she sets and retrieves a lobster trap. She removes the “bugs” as the fishers call them, from the traps and puts bands on the large claws. Hearing about the lobsters was probably one of the most interesting parts of the entire trip, but I don’t think I’ll be going to sea any time soon.

We then visited the actual hatchery where the lobsters are bred. Female lobsters with fertilized eggs are removed from the sea and taken to the hatchery where they are held in tanks until the eggs hatch. The eggs remain attached to the lobster and are carried around for nine months before hatching. Seem familiar?

After hatching, the tiny lobsters, barely visible, are removed and placed in an area with rows of large bubbling tubes about eight feet tall that resemble the lab of a mad scientist in a science fiction movie. Because lobsters are predatory and will eat each other, they are kept apart by the fierce bubbling action in the water.

We laughingly dubbed them “test-tube lobsters.

When they grow larger, they are separated into small individual tanks until they are large enough to return to the sea. They are released at the bottom of the sea in areas where conditions are best for survival. Only about fifty percent survive to become adults, but in the wild, the survival rate by natural reproduction is only about ten percent.

All of this trouble only to ensure the survival of lobsters so they can be caught and eaten. Somehow it spoiled my appetite and I decided I would just have a salad for dinner.

Copyright 2012 Sheila Moss

About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.
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2 Responses to Test-Tube Lobsters

  1. Sheila Moss says:

    Haven’t seen either the Wallace essay or Seinfeld episode. Sound interesting. I like lobster, but seldom eat it as it is so expensive. Some people think crab legs taste like lobster, but I don’t like them. The hatchery was really interesting. I had no idea how they grew.


  2. haoyando says:

    Wow, “The eggs remain attached to the lobster and are carried around for nine months before hatching. Seem familiar?” Yes, they are so human like. Love your lobster post. You remind me of the essay about lobster by David Foster Wallace and an episode of Seinfeld. I don’t eat lobsters but my friends are all crazy about it.


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