(GOLIATH LOBSTER) NEW YORK — After nearly becoming the main course of a California dinner, Leroy, the 18-pound, 75-year-old Goliath lobster has been taken in to captivity at the New York Aquarium. People like Jennifer Vargas worked hard to save Leroy from being eaten, but could they have gone further and saved him from captivity as well? Surely Leroy would fancy the vastness of the ocean over the confinement of a tank. Our relationship with animals continues to progress, but it is obvious we still have work to do. Learn more about how Leroy got so big, what people did to save him from being dinner, and then tell us what you think of his rescue in the comments. — Global Animal
Canada.com, Randy Boswell
It emerged, Goliath-like, from a routine shipment of Canadian lobsters to a seafood company in California: an eight-kilogram giant of the species that has probably lived in the waters off Atlantic Canada since the Second World War.
Jennifer Vargas, the bookkeeper at a San Francisco shellfish distributor, decided the colossal crustacean deserved a better fate than a boiling pot of water. She arranged for the posting of an Internet offer to spare the life of Leroy — i.e., The King — if any aquarium or zoo in North America could guarantee him a good home.
Officials with the New York Aquarium, run by the U.S. Wildlife Conservation Society, saw the online notice about the freakishly large lobster and quickly agreed to put Leroy on permanent display in one of its tanks. And now, the 75-year-old creature — hauled out of the ocean by an unidentified New Brunswick fisherman — is wowing visitors at the Coney Island attraction with his monster claws and the touching tale of his narrow escape from California dinner plates.
Vargas, who works for the New England Lobster Company of South San Francisco, told Postmedia News on Friday that she doesn’t usually see the shipments of lobsters that come in from the East Coast. But when her co-workers discovered 18-pound Leroy — a super-sized standout among the hundreds of lobsters shipped west via a Maine company earlier this summer — everyone at the distribution centre came to see what the fuss was about.
Leroy was at least four times heavier than any of his travelling companions. Lobsters headed for restaurants and grocery stores typically weigh between one and two pounds (0.45 to 0.9 kg), with bigger beasts of up to four pounds (1.8 kg) being very notable exceptions, Vargas said.
“I thought, ‘Holy crap!’ That guy is huge,’ ” she recalled. “And then I looked at him really close and he looked scared to me. I was thinking that he’d escaped predators and he’d escaped being caught for so long, and now someone’s just going to cook him. What an awful way to go.”
She asked her boss if the gargantuan fellow could be saved. His eyes rolled at first, but he relented and Vargas was given permission to try to find a sanctuary for the septuagenarian lobster she’d already named Leroy.
The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco told Vargas that it couldn’t take the East Coast species. The world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium also declined. But then came the online posting with the International Forum of Professional Aquarists and the call from the New York Aquarium.
Leroy was packed in ice and Styrofoam chips and shipped overnight in a special FedEx container to the Coney Island facility.
“We knew we had to have it,” Jon Forrest Dohlin, WCS vice-president and director of the New York Aquarium, said in a statement. “He’s a magnificent creature that has been delighting our guests since his arrival.”
Vargas said she’s grateful Leroy will be able to live out his days at the aquarium, feasting on a steady supply of shrimp.
“He came from the East Coast, checked out California for a while, and now he’s got a nice retirement villa,” she said.
Leroy is big, but isn’t the biggest lobster ever to come from Canada — not by a long shot. According to Guinness World Records, a lobster caught in Nova Scotia in 1977 tipped the scales at 20 kilograms or 44 pounds.