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'Beautiful' blue lobster saved from boiling pot as hunt widens for more North Wales oddities

Daily Post 01/08/2022 Andrew Forgrave

A bright blue lobster caught by a fisherman off the North Wales coats has been saved from the pot. The rare crustacean was destined for a dinner plate in Spain but will now live out its days at a lobster research centre on Anglesey.

When Amlwch fisherman Liam Thomas hauled in his catch near Puffin Island last week, he knew his blue lobster was special – experts reckon the chances of catching one is around one in two million. Not expecting it to attract much interest, however, he was resigned to losing it to his regular buyer, who supplies customers on the Continent.

But when Liam's discovery was shared by North Wales Live, it caught the attention of Frankie Hobro, owner and director of Anglesey Sea Zoo. As it runs the Lobster Hatchery of Wales project in Brynsiencyn, she was keen to add the rarity to the facility’s research programme.

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After coming to a deal with Liam, his female bluey is now on display with the zoo’s other colour morphs – one of which is even rarer.

Frankie said: “This is an exciting addition to our ongoing captive breeding and release programme, and we are very grateful to Liam for providing us with this beautiful blue lobster. We still have a lot to learn about the rare colour morphs of common lobsters.

“We hope to find out if these rare colourations are entirely genetic throwbacks, or due to environmental factors such as diet and habitat, or a combination of both. This is all valuable information about a species which is extremely common but which we still have much to learn about.”

Frankie Hobro, owner and director of Anglesey Sea Zoo © Arwyn Roberts/North Wales Live Frankie Hobro, owner and director of Anglesey Sea Zoo

The Common European lobster is usually a mottled dark blue/greeny-brown colour. When it is boiled and cooked, it turns the orangey/pink colour familiar to seafood lovers. Anglesey Sea Zoo currently has three other blue lobsters but none are as vivid as the one caught by Liam. The attraction also has a bright orange lobster, reckoned to be be a one in 30 million variation.

Rarest if all is the albino lobster (one in 100 million). Last year the Sea Zoo actually managed to get its hands one of these incredibly rare creatures. “Unfortunately it was in very bad condition and sadly it did not survive its moulting process,” said Frankie.

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Since lobster stocks have recovered over the last decade or so, these rare colour morphs have started to appear in British waters. Frankie hopes to increase awareness so that more fishermen will contribute coloured lobsters to the hatchery’s research efforts: she particularly wants males, as all the Sea Zoo’s coloured morphs are female.

When caught, Liam’s blue lobster was missing a claw. As lobsters are cannibalistic and territorial, they often lose a claw or leg during disputes.

Lost appendages grow back when crustaceans such as lobsters, crabs and prawn go through the moulting process. Anglesey Sea Zoo is expecting its new one-clawed addition to re-grow her missing claw in her next moult.

Frankie added: “It will also be interesting to see if she maintains the same vivid blue or becomes a slightly different shade after moulting, as we have seen this happen in other individuals.”

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The Sea Zoo’s hatchery already works with commercial fishermen to maintain healthy lobster stocks in the Irish Sea. Each year up to 200 juvenile lobsters are released after being bred from egg-carrying females supplied by local fishermen.

Frankie is now appealing to any other fishermen who catch an unusually coloured lobster to get in touch with the sea zoo. Liam said he will certainly be keeping his eyes peeled.

He said: “I was delighted to have made such a valuable catch and I’m pleased she’s gone to a good home. I am planning to take my daughter to visit the blue lobster at the Sea Zoo.

“From now on I will be looking out for any other unusually coloured lobsters, especially now that I know they can go there and contribute to public education and research.”

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