A story of a long-lived lobster emerged from across Long Island Sound this week. It seems a sympathetic businessman saved a 17-pounder — estimated to be 70 or more years old — from the boiling pot at The Dock Restaurant in Waterford, Conn., and then set it free in the Sound. They’re calling the crusty crustacean “Lucky Larry.”
But will this story have a happy ending?
The restaurant says Larry was originally fished out in New England. Now this respected elder of the deep is living in the Long Island Sound. Was that really the best retirement home for Larry?
The Sound hasn’t been exactly hospitable to crustaceans for more than a decade. There was a severe die-off of lobsters in 1999. Connecticut environmental officials say lobster catches in Long Island Sound have declined from 3.7 million pounds in 1998 to 142,000 pounds in 2011.
Now there are so few of the creatures that only 20 full-time lobstermen work the waters on the Connecticut side, and about the same or fewer on the Long Island side. Things have gotten so bad that officials are proposing a three-month moratorium on commercial lobster fishing in Long Island Sound beginning in October to help the species recover.
Higher water temperatures, fertilizers, pesticides and poor sewage treatment have been blamed for contaminating the lobster habitat. And for decades scientists have observed the occurrence of a low-oxygen “dead zone” in the Sound from roughly New York City east to Long Island’s Nassau County-Suffolk County border, and sometimes as far east as Port Jefferson. Professor Chris Gobler of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University says oxygen depletion near the sea bottom stresses many living creatures and pushes them out of the central area of the Sound.
So if the Sound is so inhospitable to life, what are Lucky Larry’s chances?
Don MacKenzie, vice president of Boats Inc., in Niantic, Conn., bought Larry from the restaurant and left Niantic Bay with the lobster on Tuesday, headed in a boat for the Sound. According to The Day newspaper in New London, MacKenzie wouldn’t disclose where Larry was dropped in, but says it was an area where it’s impossible for draggers to drop nets.
Video at The Day’s website shows a rocky shoreline in the background as rubberbands were snipped from Larry’s claws and he was gently eased overboard.
So aside from any encounter with a fisherman or lobster trap, can Larry survive? After all, experts say some lobsters live to be a century old. Gobler says if Larry is prowling somewhere near Niantic, his chances may be good. The water in the eastern Sound is cleaner because it washes in from the Atlantic Ocean and is farther from sources of pollution.
“Larry’s luck will continue if he was dropped in the eastern half of the Sound,” Gobler says.
So we wish him well. Live long and lobster.
Pictured above: Steve Wilson removes rubber bands from the claws of Lucky Larry the lobster before releasing him at an undisclosed location off the Connecticut shore in Long Island Sound. Don MacKenzie, purchased the 17-pound lobster at The Dock Restaurant in Waterford, Conn., then released it. (July 24, 2012)