Unpacking a 40-pound box of live lobsters Monday morning, Wantagh seafood store owner Frank Marinello spotted a rare yellow lobster among the typical greenish-blackish ones.
"I can't believe we got shipped another one" was his first thought, said Marinello, 46, who two years ago, under similar conditions, came across his first, which he named, fed and kept alive for two weeks.
The latest lobster, who came from the Fulton Fish Market and is estimated to be 8 years old and weighing between 11/4 to 11/2 pounds, is named Lucy for the family Shih Tzu, Marinello said. Her predecessor was Patty, named for his wife. Both crustaceans are from Nova Scotia.
"If only I could do this with lottery tickets, I'd have it made," said Marinello, owner of New Wave Seafood Market & Restaurant. Marinello said he receives about 20,000 to 25,000 pounds of lobster a year, the average lobster being 11/2 pounds.
The odds of coming across a yellow lobster -- they're actually yellow/orange -- are estimated to be around one in 30 million, according to the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine. The odds of the same person coming across two? That would be "worse than a guess," said Robert Bayer, the institute's executive director, who says the coloring comes from a genetic mutation.
"It's kind of unusual," Mattituck lobsterman Jim King said of the two yellows being shipped to New Wave. In his 50 years lobstering, King, 70, said he's never caught a pure yellow lobster, but has come across three blues and a black one with yellow spots, which he donated to aquariums and the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Still, "a lobster's a lobster," said John German, 66, president of Long Island Sound Lobstermen's Association. "Nobody [on the dock] is going to walk over to look at it . . . You don't get any extra or any less," said German, a 47-year lobsterman. What's more, "they taste the same."
Marinello said he's looking for an aquarium or other facility to adopt and display Lucy, as he tried to arrange unsuccessfully for Patty, who spent the final weeks of her life eating shrimp and fascinating his customers. She died of natural causes that Marinello attributed to his tanks not being designed to maintain lobsters over time.
"We never served her," he said. "We never cooked her."
When she died, "we buried her."