The Maine Lobster
Lobsters are invertebrates, members of the Class Crustacea of the
Phylum Anthropoda. Having said that, the Maine Lobster is the most
popular type of lobster and possibly seafood in the world. Maine
Lobster has a distinctive flavor that is considered a delicacy that
crosses over many cultural boundaries. The tender white meat adds to
many recipes from many areas of the world.
caught off the Maine Coast is ecologically friendly. The Maine
Lobstermen's Association works extremely hard with the government and
ecologists to ensure that the ocean and other creatures from the sea
are protected, as well as protecting lobster as a natural resource.
Maine has the strictest laws in North America for the conservation of
lobster and the marine environment.
History of Lobstering
Native Americans once used Maine Lobsters to fertilize their crops.
Journal writings of colonists as early as 1605 talk about the plentiful
catch of lobsters. In Colonial times, there are many reports of
lobsters being served only to the poor, prisoners, and indentured
servants. Contracts have been found where servants have demanded that
lobster not be served any more than three times per week.
Lobster is not apparent as a state commerce until the 1840's. New York
and Boston had started to demand lobster, this was the beginning of the
specialization of lobstering as a harvest. Due to the inability of
keeping the lobsters alive out of water for very long, the canning
industry flourished. Eastport had the first cannery, and soon
twenty-three more popped up between there and Portland. In 1860,
canneries were processing four and five pound lobsters. At that time,
five pound lobsters were considered small. Within twenty years,
canneries were processing lobsters that were less than a pound. This
caused the need for the preservation laws in the lobstering industry.
The canning industry did not survive this, but the want for lobster
did. Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Rockland, had the first
known lobster pound around 1875. Because the pound made it possible for
lobsters to remain alive, the modern lobster industry was created.
many lobster dealers have pounds along the coastline of Maine. Some sea
tradesmen have smacks (large floats at sea on which lobstermen and
lobster dealers buy and sell theirs lobsters)that they travel out to
daily. Foreside Seafood is one of those true Maine Lobster Dealerships.
Homarus Americanus, better known as the Maine Lobster, can be found
from the North in Labrador all the way south to North Carolina. Mostly,
Maine Lobsters are found in the Gulf of Maine in the Atlantic Ocean.
Generally, Maine Lobsters prefer to inhabit on a rocky or muddy bottom
in colder water. They spend a large amount of time hiding in crevices.Maine
Lobsters are usually greenish-brown, however, it is believed that one
in every million lobsters is blue. Others have been caught that were
red, or yellow, or orange, but these are extremely rare. Maine lobsters
differ from other lobsters by their large meat-filled claws. A distant
cousin to the Maine Lobster is the warm water Panulirus Argus, known as
the Spiny or Florida Lobster. The Spiny Lobster is known for its' tail
meat, but it is rarely heard that diners prefer that type of lobster to
a Maine Lobster.
Movement, Digestion, and Waste
Maine Lobsters have eight walking legs and eight swimmerettes (short,
fan-like "legs") to scavenge the ocean floor in a forward movement.
Backward swimming is done by using the tail as a scoop and propelling
backwards (rather quickly, too). Lobsters eat what ever they can catch:
crabs, fish, clams, and luckily for us, bait in a lobster trap. Little
appendages pull the food to their mouth-like jaw, where it is shredded
and swallowed. The stomach of the lobster digests the food with the
help of teeth-like chewers.Maine Lobsters excrete both liquid and solid
wastes. Liquid wastes are released through a hole by the antennae ,
while solid waste is released in an opening in the underpart of the
grow by molting, or shedding their shells. Lobsters molt 25-30 times in
the first seven years of life. This is how long it takes to get to the
harvesting size (in Maine). After that, Maine Lobsters molt once per
year which increases their size by approximately one-quarter pound.
When a lobster molts, the new shell is like jelly. The lobster hides
out because this is when a lobster is most vulnerable. Often, the
lobster eats the molted shell which seems to quicken the hardening of
the new shell. You will hear lobsters referred to as hard (or old)
shell or soft (or new) shell. Hard shell lobsters last longer for
transportation and appear to have more meat. Soft shell lobster is
cheaper because it does not travel as well and the meat is condensed to
protect itself during molting.
mating, the female chooses the male (usually the largest and most
dominant), and excretes a substance that wafts into the males den.
After a few days of courting type behavior, and a wrestling type match,
the male fertilizes the females eggs. The female carries the fertilized
eggs with her up to nine or ten months (depending on the water
temperature). The warmer the water, the shorter she carries them. At
this point the eggs are called Roe and
are considered a delicacy by many. Depending on the age of the female
lobster, she could release anywhere from 600 to 100,000 eggs. Once
released from her tail, the larvae must face a vicious world. It is
estimated that only one-tenth of one percent of the eggs released
survive to the minimum legal size. At first a baby lobster looks like a
sand flea. It is not until they have molted at least four times that
the newborn resembles what we see in the cooking pot.
Thanks to Jon McCann for letting us take pictures!