May 17, 2012

An unexpected surge in 'shedders'

Soft-shell lobsters are showing up much earlier than usual in a season that some say is affected by the mild winter and warmer ocean temperatures.

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Soft-shell lobsters, like the one at left at New Meadows Lobster in Portland on Wednesday, generally aren’t harvested in great numbers until June or early July.

Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Nick Alfiero of Harbor Fish Market in Portland, said Wednesday that the abundance of soft-shell lobster has little effect on his business.

Additional Photos Below

SOFT-SHELL

Considered a local delicacy because it doesn’t ship well.

Less meat than its hard-shell counterpart, but many believe it to be sweeter and more tender.

HARD-SHELL

Unlike its counterpart, it can survive the rigors of shipping.

Generally priced higher than soft-shell, and price often climbs as the crustacean’s size increases.

"It's nice to not shred your hands on the super-hard ones when you're shucking them," said Turin.

"It takes a lot of work to crack lobsters," Barrett said. "The easier they are to crack, the less time we have to spend doing it."

Ditto for local processing plants such as Cozy Harbor Seafood.

"They do most of the hand-picked meat for the area," Barrett said.

As for theories, water temperature clearly plays a role in a lobster's movement and metabolism. When ocean temperatures drop below, say, 40 degrees, Wilson said, lobsters are less likely to eat.

By actively feeding throughout this winter, lobsters molted in spring instead of summer and grew larger -- the carapace increases by 10 percent to 15 percent with each molt, he said.

Pete McAleney of New Meadows Lobster considers ocean currents and the lack of severe winter storms from the north and east the reason for the warmer water temperatures.

"If you look at my house," said McAleney, pointing out his second-story abode on the end of Portland Pier, "all the paint is chipped on (the western) side because the storms all came this way. Usually, we have to paint the front of this building, but nothing happened. It was a crazy winter."

McAleney also said the abundance of shedders is restricted to certain areas in the Gulf of Maine. Few have been caught Down East, for example, or in parts of Casco Bay.

"But down around Five Islands," he said, "that's all they're catching is soft-shell lobsters.

"So it's tough to explain. It's just Mother Nature." 

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

gjordan@pressherald.com

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

 

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Additional Photos

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Peter McAleney of New Meadows Lobster in Portland says ocean currents and a dearth of nor’easters have contributed to warmer ocean temperatures in parts of the Gulf of Maine.

  


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