Real lobsters don't resemble the cute caricatures that wave a friendly claw at us from a seafood house's oversized bib. On the contrary, as biologist Douglas Conklin of the University of California's Bodega Marine Laboratory told Time magazine, "They are mean, rotten, aggressive creatures." Their aggressiveness is one of the main reasons that inland lobster farming has not taken off as a profitable or even practical venture. Once they reach a certain size, the cannibalistic lobsters will turn on each other without provocation, ready for their next meal. Keeping them together in any quantity ends up as a lobster vs. lobster slugfest, winner eat all.
Some wild lobster populations have "crashed" and need to be built up again to ensure there is a sufficient population to meet the large demand, according to The Lobster Conservancy. Lobstermen have overharvested them, especially in the waters along northern Europe and the British Isles. In response, another type of lobster farming seeks to replenish the population by raising them for a short time after birth in hatcheries. Females are harvested from the wild, and the larvae they bear are kept in a tank. The tank's circulating water keeps the larvae going in circles, preventing them from eating each other. By the age of about a month, they have grown too large to prevent cannibalism and are released back into the wild.
According to The Lobster Conservancy, for more than 100 years lobstermen and scientists have wanted to find a way to make inland lobster farming viable. Under prime aquaculture conditions, a lobster could be raised to maturity in 2 years, rather than in the 6 to 10 years needed to mature in the ocean. Because lobster farmers would need enough space and water to prevent the crustaceans from eating each other, and enough food to raise them--all of which becomes expensive--the dream of farming lobsters in an inland location will have to remain a dream a while longer.
It's hard to believe now, but there was a time when today's prized lobster was not a highly valued item. Instead, it was looked upon almost like our fast food simply because there were so many of them, especially off the coast of New England in the 1600s and 1700s. There were so many lobsters, in fact, that they were fed to prisoners as an inexpensive and easy meal. Lobsters also inspired artists, warriors and medicine men. Turks in the early 17th century adopted the fierce visage and protective shell of the lobster when they adapted their helmets to resemble the scaled tail. Romans inserted the lobster's likeness in mosaics. Healers used parts of the lobster in medications to treat urinary tract problems, kidney stones, epilepsy and some types of inflammation. Native Americans used lobsters to fertilise their plants.
With regard to lobsters that are destined for the dinner table, there are two main types. The clawed lobster, both the American and European varieties, lives in cold water. Their habitats are off the coast of Maine and farther north along Canada. Their European cousins live along Norway and farther south to the Azores. A second type, the spiny lobster, lives in warm water. Its habitat ranges from the waters off California and Florida to New Zealand, the Bahamas and South Africa, among other areas. The lobsters that live in colder waters mature more slowly than those in warm water, and some aficionados claim they are more appealing to their taste buds.
There are more than 140 species of lobsters around the world, including the American lobster, the Atlantic deep-sea lobster, the Japanese lobster and the Norway lobster. Clawed varieties include the French lobster and the Canadian lobster. Spiny varieties, which lack the big claw seen in the clawed variety, include rock lobsters and the Brazilian spiny lobster.
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