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Frequently Asked Questions

What are some other names for lobsters?

The Homarus americanus,The American lobster, is also known as the Massachusetts lobster, the Maine lobster, the Canadian lobster or the North Atlantic lobster.

Where (and how frequently) are lobsters caught?

Lobsters are found on the east coast of North America, from Newfoundland to North Carolina.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) announced on February 18, 2011 that more than 93 million pounds of lobster were caught in Maine?s waters in 2010, a record for Maine fishermen. This total represents an estimated increase of 12 million pounds of lobster from the previous record of 81 million pounds caught by Maine fishermen in 2009. The estimated total value of the landings in 2010 is $308,706,785, according to DMR officials. It is only the third time that the value of the statewide annual total lobster landings has been $300 million or more. In 2005, the year after the state started requiring lobster dealers to file landings reports, the value of the overall catch was just shy of $318 million. In 2006, the estimated statewide landings value was $312 million.

Approximately 90% of U.S. Iandings come from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. During the off season lobster is imported from Canada to meet demand.

What do lobsters eat?

Lobsters usually move around and hunt for food at night. It was once thought that lobsters were scavengers and ate primarily dead things. However, researchers have discovered that lobsters catch mainly fresh food (except for bait) which includes fish, crabs, clams, mussels, sea urchins, and sometimes even other lobsters! There are, however, many fish that eat baby lobsters.

How is the health of the lobster resource?

According to the scientists at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Woods Hole Laboratory, Maine record lobster harvest have increased significantly in the last decade; however, the number of traps fished and general efficiency of the fishing industry have also increased. In the Northeast it is one of only a few fishery resources that is considered to be generally healthy. Fishermen and scientist, however, are continuing to work together to develop management measures which will help insure adequate egg production to sustain the resource and fishery. Conservation is currently practiced through the safeguarding of lobsters less than 3-1/4" carapace length (Carapace length is measured from the rear of the eye socket to the rear of the main body shell). Any lobster that has a smaller carapace length than 3-1/4" must be returned unharmed to the sea. These lobsters are known as "shorts" or "sub-legals". Egg-bearing females are also protected and if caught, must be placed back in the sea. Lobster traps must have escape vents to allow sub- legal size lobsters to exit the trap while it is still on the bottom (they can come in, eat, and leave). Not all "shorts" leave, however, and so the lobsterman must then throw them back when they pull their trap onto the boat. Lobster traps must also have biodegradable escape panels which will create a large opening and neutralize the fishing potential of a lost trap. With the escape panel open, a lost "trap" or "pot" actually becomes a habitat providing shelter without entrapment.

Where do lobsters live?

Small lobster (less than 1-1/2" carapace length) are very cryptic, hiding in and about sea weeds and rocky habitat that provide adequate food and shelter from predators. Adolescent lobsters (1-1/2" to 3-1/2" CL) dominate coastal habitats and offshore areas. They generally exhibit minimal migratory behavior. Larger, more mobile, adult lobsters may inhabit deeper waters but return seasonally to shallow warmer waters.

When do lobsters mate?

A female lobster mates primarily when she is in the soft-shell state right after she has shed her shell (molted). Female lobsters can carry live sperm for up to two years. At any time she may decide to fertilize her 3,000-75,000 eggs. By law, a female lobster carrying eggs must be thrown back if it is caught.

Are lobsters different colors?

Red as a lobster: is just a tale. Lobsters come in just about every color but red. They can be blue, light yellow, greenish- brown, grey, dusty orange, some calico, and some with spots. However, they all turn red when they hit hot water. The hot water cuts the link between astaxanthin, a red substance contained in the lobster's shell, and protein which in cold water brings out the predominant coloring.

Can lobsters grow new legs?

Lobsters are capable of reflex amputation (autonomy). They can discard a limb to allow escape so as to prevent more serious injury; this can be a lifesaving phenomenon. Lobsters have the ability to regenerate some of their body parts; for example, the claws, walking legs, and antennae. The fact that lobsters are capable of limb loss and regeneration is indicative of a very primitive nervous system and their differential sensitivity to pain compared to humans or other types of animals (they can "drop" a claw, etc. and go off like nothing happened.Could you drop an arm or leg like that?).

Do lobsters have teeth?

The teeth of a lobster are in its stomach. The stomach is located a very short distance from the mouth, and the food is actually chewed in the stomach between three grinding surfaces that look like molar surfaces, called the "gastric mill".

Can lobsters smell their food?

Lobsters "smell" their food by using four small antennae on the front of their heads and tiny sensing hairs that cover their bodies. Their sense of smell is so fine that they can sniff out a single amino acid that tags their favorite food.

Do lobsters lay eggs?

A freshly laid lobster egg is the size of the head of a pin (1/16"). A 1-pound female lobster usually carries approximately 8000 eggs. A 9-pound female may carry more than 100,000 eggs. The female lobster carries the eggs inside for 9 to 12 months and then for another 9 to 12 months externally attached to the swimmerets under her tail. When the eggs hatch, the larvae will float near the surface for 4 to 6 weeks. The few that survive will settle to the bottom and continue to develop as baby lobsters. From every 50,000 eggs only 2 lobsters are expected to survive to legal size.

Do many young lobsters survive to old age?

Lobster babies swim at water surface for 25 days. Only one percent make it to the bottom. These young lobsters shed their shells about ten times in their first year. A near-shore lobster has a 90% chance of ending up on someone's dinner plate. What is the largest lobster ever caught? The Massachusetts Lobstermen's association claimed a record when they caught "Big George" in 1974 off Cape Cod. The lobster weighed 37.4 pounds with a total length of 2.1 feet.

How can one tell if a boiled lobster was alive when cooked?

Upon the death of a lobster the tail loses its elasticity and ability to curl under the body. When plunged into boiling water, a live lobster curls its tail under. It remains in that position during and after cooking.

Have people been poisoned by eating lobsters that were allowed to die before being cooked? Is it true that a dead lobster deteriorates very rapidly? What happens when a live lobster is frozen?

Lobsters are not poisonous if they die before cooking, but cooking should not be delayed. Many lobsters sold commercially are killed and frozen before cooking. Lobsters and other crustaceans do spoil rapidly after death, which is why many buyers insist on receiving them alive. If the lobster is "headed" before or soon after death, the body meat will keep fresh longer. This is because the so-called head includes the thorax, the site of most of the viscera and gills, which spoil much more rapidly than claw or tail meat. Freezing slows deteriorate changes and harmful chemical actions that follow death.

Is it possible to raise lobsters on a commercial basis?

Not yet, but research is underway to develop rearing techniques and to assess the economic feasibility of rearing the American lobster commercially. In the opinion of many scientists working with the American lobster, commercial aquaculture can be achieved in the near future with a sufficient level of effort. Future projections for the culture of the spiny lobster are not, however, optimistic. Unlike the American lobster which has a relatively short larval life (several weeks), the spiny lobster has a larval life of about six or seven months. The technical difficulties presented by the fragile, demanding requirements of the early life stages discount the use of traditional hatchery methods with any degree of success or practicality.

Have Maine lobsters been successfully transplanted to the West Coast?

Attempts have been made to do so, but success has been limited. The Canadian government discontinued in mid-1973 a six-year-old experiment in which the lobsters were reared successfully in the waters off British Columbia. The decision to drop the project was evidently dictated by economics.

I've heard that lobsters molt, but I've never seen a cast-off shell. Why?

After molting, lobsters will eat voraciously, often devouring their own recently vacated shells. This replenishment of lost calcium hastens the hardening of the new shell which takes about 14-30 days from the actual loss of the old shell.

How much lobster meat can you get from a lobster?

A 1 1/2 pound lobster yields approximately1 1/3 cups of meat. A 1 pound lobster yields approximately 2/3 cup.

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