The enigma behind America’s freak, 20-year lobster boom
October 12, 2015 8:56 AM   Subscribe

The Maine lobster haul has been growing and growing since the early 1990s, and no one is certain of why. Now there are fears of a pending bust, but without knowing the reason for the boom, no one can confidently predict whether the bust will happen either.
posted by Etrigan (44 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sudden, unexplained bounty from the sea in New England, eh? I suppose there's probably been an uptick in gold refining in the area, and the occasional... interesting trinket showing up in the antiquities market?

That's not going to end well, folks. If we don't remember our history, we're doomed to repeat it!
posted by gurple at 8:59 AM on October 12, 2015 [43 favorites]


I assume that they are actually catching people in Sexy Lobster costumes and your lobster roll is now people, but what can you do?
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:01 AM on October 12, 2015 [25 favorites]


Isn't it likely that we caught all the fish that would normally eat the lobster's food and/or the baby lobsters?
posted by leotrotsky at 9:01 AM on October 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is gonna sound weird for someone who grew up helping Grampa haul in his traps on our family visits to Cape Cod, and who now lives about 20 minutes from no less than 10 Brooklyn lobster roll establishments, but - can I just say that I was always only sort of "meh" about lobster anyway? There's some kind of overly-unctuous fatty sweetness, almost, that I've soured on as I've gotten older.

Bluefish, though, gimme more of that. Preferably caught only within 12 hours of my eating it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:03 AM on October 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Preferably caught only within 12 hours of my eating it.

I'm probably reading this wrong, but eww.
posted by chavenet at 9:05 AM on October 12, 2015 [18 favorites]


Isn't it likely that we caught all the fish that would normally eat the lobster's food and/or the baby lobsters?

Yes, that's one of the theories in the article.

TIL that cod is an apex predator.
posted by Etrigan at 9:06 AM on October 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


In the future, we will all eat bugs every day.

Delicious, delicious bugs. With lots of butter.

Soon after, it will be jellyfish.

Delicious, del ... wait, hold on ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:24 AM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


How are you reading it? What's wrong with fresh fish?
posted by dilaudid at 9:29 AM on October 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Consider the Lobster
posted by Gymnopedist at 9:30 AM on October 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I read somewhere that lobsters used to be considered poor peoples' food and it took some kind of marketing gimmick to create demand for them.

Haddock (much better than lobster) apparently went through a similar decline and resurgence in North America. It's my favorite fish, but one of those where some sources are sustainable and others are not.
posted by Foosnark at 9:31 AM on October 12, 2015


There is an amusing little book called The Secret Life of Lobsters, which is about half natural history of lobsters and half snapshots of people who worked out some of the more complex elements of a very complex animal.

Lobsters have a very odd life cycle, starting with mating (my comment here gives a sense of it) and then going through four (if I remember correctly) life stages, the first three free-swimming, where they are mostly prey for fish. Their last metamorphosis, which leaves them in the form that we are most familiar with (second-to-last, if you are mostly familiar with bisque or lobster rolls) is, in some ways, the most dangerous, since, as they sink to the bottom, they are at the mercy of where the prevailing currents deposit them. If that is in an open sandy area, the young lobster is very likely to get eaten. If it's a more rocky spot, the lobster has a good chance of hiding until it has grown large enough to murder anything that comes near it. There is some evidence that the boom and bust nature of lobster fishing has to do with shifting currents and where they are dropping the young.

The fairly conservation-minded industry, with its focus on individual ships and crews that tend to get the importance of maintaining a healthy lobster population, is probably also a factor (as the article discusses). I don't think lobsters (given their fondness for rocky areas) are very amenable to factory fishing, so most of the fishing vessels adopted a much more sustainable mindset in the late 70s (I may be misremembering the book on this point).
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:32 AM on October 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


as the sun heats the sea in late spring, lobsters awaken from their torpor and trek back toward the shore to eat, mate, and bulk up.

same
posted by Greg Nog at 9:34 AM on October 12, 2015 [61 favorites]


That book was amazing, GenjiandProust. One of my favorites.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:34 AM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Considering the Rhode Island/Connecticut lobster industry is already in free fall, it's definitely more of a lobsters-migrate-up-north situation than a global lobster boom.

And considering that the reason people started eating lobster in the first place is that they used to wash ashore in piles up to 2 feet high and were therefore considered the cheap crap we fed to prisoners and servants I am not sure the current state can properly be considered a "bonanza" even for the fishermen up in Maine, unless your sense of history is very limited.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:34 AM on October 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I read somewhere that lobsters used to be considered poor peoples' food and it took some kind of marketing gimmick to create demand for them.

People sued to stop being fed lobster all the time.
posted by kmz at 9:36 AM on October 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am not sure the current state can properly be considered a "bonanza" even for the fishermen up in Maine, unless your sense of history is very limited.

Thank the heavens that we live in America, then, where a sense of history is a positive liability!
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:42 AM on October 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm probably reading this wrong, but eww.

....I took it as understood that you'd get I meant "caught 12 hours BEFORE I eat [bluefish]", as opposed to my diving into the water teeth-first and eating it like Gollum or something.

But if that's STILL making you shudder, then I'm also not getting the "ew".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:43 AM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


If I have to wear a bib to eat something, it damn well better be spooned directly into my mouth accompanied by choo-choo train sound effects.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:45 AM on October 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


I think the mis-read was that it was caught in the 12 hours after you ate it.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:46 AM on October 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


If I have to wear a bib to eat something, it damn well better be spooned directly into my mouth accompanied by choo-choo train sound effects.

"New York's hottest restaurant is..."
posted by indubitable at 9:48 AM on October 12, 2015 [25 favorites]


The Maine lobster haul has been growing and growing since the early 1990s

Well, ish. The article says that an increasingly high percentage of American lobsters is hauled up in Maine than elsewhere. Which, um, yeah? Duh? Maine has a lobster industry and a lobster reputation. As demand for lobster goes up, well, that's demand for Maine lobster.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:51 AM on October 12, 2015


The Maine lobster haul has been growing and growing since the early 1990s

Well, ish. The article says that an increasingly high percentage of American lobsters is hauled up in Maine than elsewhere.


Keep reading. Per this chart, the actual poundage has nearly tripled.
posted by Etrigan at 9:56 AM on October 12, 2015


Came for the HP lovecraft comment, was not disappointed.

Anyway, the graph just seems to chart pounds caught. While certainly it's better than a decline, it doesn't mention how many people are out trapping for lobsters... I wonder if it's just a question of over-fishing.

Oh, there's the chart showing traps vs pounds caught... seems pretty clear to me. More traps, more lobsters caught.

I wonder what the mass ratio of herring bait laid out to caught lobsters is? I suppose it's entirely possible that fishermen are putting out more than a pound of herring per pound of lobster caught which also seems like a pretty good theory.
posted by GuyZero at 10:05 AM on October 12, 2015


People sued to stop being fed lobster all the time.

That's being a bit shellfish, don't you think?
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:17 AM on October 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


So...We've hit peak lobster?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:20 AM on October 12, 2015


An excess of chittering horrors from the deep, you say?

No, I don't see any relevance to current events...
posted by blue_beetle at 10:22 AM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey, this isn't the Boehner thread.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:25 AM on October 12, 2015


So, wait: we catch millions of herring — the silver darlin's, the most glorious and tasty fish in the sea — to chop them up to feed sea cockroaches? Yuck!

(I'm Scottish. Herring are the best.)
posted by scruss at 11:06 AM on October 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't know about the rest of the continent, but here in Toronto the lobster's drop in price never made it to the consumer level. Our stores and fishmongers still have lobster at a premium price while my parents' small town Ontario grocer was selling pre-cooked lobsters 2/$6.99. Somebody in the supply chain is making some good money off of this lobster boom even if the fishermen aren't.
posted by thecjm at 11:17 AM on October 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


What's wrong with fresh fish?

When I turn into a zombie I am going to eat Five Fresh Fish and Admiral Haddock.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 11:21 AM on October 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: people in Sexy Lobster costumes

Also, jellyfish is actually pretty tasty. Strange texture--like, crunchy soft and chewy all at once.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:45 AM on October 12, 2015


I don't know about the rest of the continent, but here in Toronto the lobster's drop in price never made it to the consumer level.

Keep tabs on your nearest No Frills. They frequently have cooked/frozen lobsters for $5
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:46 AM on October 12, 2015


Ian Brown had an article in the Globe and Mail about how the price for consumers is not dropping: My Travels with Larry the Lobster
posted by v-tach at 11:49 AM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes! Finally, the time is right to realize my lifelong dream of moving to Maine and opening a rubber band factory!
posted by aubilenon at 12:08 PM on October 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


How are you reading it? What's wrong with fresh fish?

We only have five of them. There's not nearly enough!
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:25 PM on October 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes! Finally, the time is right to realize my lifelong dream of moving to Maine and opening a rubber band factory!

I spent several summers working at a standard issue maine coast seafood restaurant. One night the manager spent a long time carefully explaining to a tourist how the yellow bands indicate the lobster comes from the east side of the island, so it gets the morning sun, which makes the meat much sweeter.

I like to think the guy is still out there somewhere, knowingly asking for yellow-banded lobsters when out with his friends.
posted by ftm at 1:42 PM on October 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


Dud-a-chum? Did-a-chuck?
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:59 PM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


How are you reading it? What's wrong with fresh fish?

Oh, where to even start.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:12 PM on October 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Preferably caught only within 12 hours of my eating it.

I'm probably reading this wrong, but eww.


Basically it's a fish that can't even be flash frozen to keep the right flavor. If you bought some at even the best fish store it's probably not been too good. I'm not a fisherman but have been given a few chunks on the dock and it is really good. If you ever get some that way it's not for tomorrow, cook it right then.
posted by sammyo at 3:14 PM on October 12, 2015


they used to wash ashore in piles up to 2 feet high

The fish shoals were so thick that they slowed ships. We had returning salmon so thick you could walk on them. The sea all around America was beyond abundant. It was mind-blowing to the first sailors.

It would be beyond fathom today.

Most of the fish are gone. They are unlikely to come back.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:20 PM on October 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I live in SC now and, for some insane reason, my Publix had some bluefish steaks on the ice a few weeks back. I pity the fools that cheerfully picked up a swordfish steak thinking they were going to be able to take it home and make it taste good. Even the color tries to warn you away.
posted by ftm at 3:20 PM on October 12, 2015


Fish done by Ike jime Are really tasty. I am not sure if it would work with lobster or other Arthropoda or Cephalopoda It is an interesting solution in dealing with freshness and taste.
posted by jadepearl at 7:13 PM on October 12, 2015


Cockroaches expand their numbers too, when everything else is dying. Lobsters are sorta kinda like sea cockroaches.
posted by agregoli at 7:16 AM on October 13, 2015


Delicious, tasty sea cockroaches.

Which makes one wonder whether it'd be possible to breed/modify the resilient land variety of cockroaches into a nutritious delicacy. You know, for when fish go extinct and chicken becomes a luxury.
posted by acb at 7:21 AM on October 13, 2015


« Older Woman Defeats Husband   |   Indigenous peoples, sexuality and gender Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments