Somehow, lobsters have become identified with Maine the way maple syrup has stuck to Vermont, even though both are found abundantly in neighboring states and provinces. I won’t even get into moose in this discussion.
Here are some talking points.
- Unlike other varieties, ours are distinguished by having large claws. One claw, the crusher, is larger than the pincher.
- They have clear blood.
- They smell with their eight legs but have poor vision. Their four antennae help them locate food. They can also swim backward.
- They chew with their stomachs, which are located right behind their eyes. They lack teeth but have a “gastric mill” that reduces their prey.
- They live on the ocean floor and never stop growing, which they accomplish by molting. Some are known to be more than a hundred years old. In fact, they show no signs of aging and almost universally die of external factors.
- It was once a poor-man’s dish, typically fed to servants. Impoverished families sent their children to school with lobster in their lunch buckets and an envy of the richer kids’ roast beef or chicken.
- Lobster comprises 75 percent of Maine’s commercial fishery value. In 2016, a banner year, the state’s 6,000 lobster-fishers landed more than 130 million pounds worth more than $533 million.
- A traditional lobster pot or trap has two sections – a “parlor,” where they enter, and the “kitchen” behind it. But for much of the region’s history, they were more likely to be harvested by hand along the shore and tide pools, where they washed up after storms.
- Most lobsters are caught in the summer months, before the shellfish trot off to deeper waters where they’re harder to harvest. In Eastport, many of the lobster boats do double-duty each winter, rigged to drag the bay bottoms for scallops. A few even go after urchins.
- Maine commercial lobstering is tightly regulated – more than in neighboring Canada – and licensing involves a long waiting list. You’d better apply well before your twenty-third birthday if you’re interested. Even if your dad still has his boat.