Harpswell seafood joint enjoys boom in 'weird' lobsters

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HARPSWELL — Allen’s Seafood on Lookout Point is home this year to more rare lobsters than the store has seen in more than 15 years.

For a few more weeks, customers and crustacean-lovers alike can take a peek at the seafood retailer’s five multi-colored lobsters, two of which sport ultra-rare split-colored shells. 

“I’ve never had this many at once. Usually I have one weird one at a time,” said Albert Rose, who has worked at Allen’s for the last 15 years alongside the owner, his mother. “Especially (having) two splits at a time I think is pretty extraordinary.”

In addition to the split shells – one blue and black, and the other orange and black – Allen’s is home to one yellow and two speckled-calico lobsters. Calicos are considered less rare than their two-toned peers, but rarer than the bright blue, or “true blue” lobsters that are arguably the most iconic of the rare varieties.

A lobster’s color varies when pigments in its shell express themselves irregularly, or not at all. Elaine Jones, director of marine education at the Maine State Aquarium, explained Sept. 1 that the average lobster looks brown because brown is the mix of the three primary colors, all of which are present in a typical lobster’s shell.

“If you can think of it as a color palette, when you lose (pigment), the others express themselves,” she said.

None one can say for certain how frequent these variations occur. While it’s often said that true-blues have a one-in-a-million chance of occurring, Rose thinks it’s more frequent than that; Allen’s doesn’t buy a million lobsters a year, but he still sees at least one or two blues a summer.

On the other hand, Rose has only bought three split-shells in the last 15 years, two of which were in the last month. The purchase of the second calico lobster on Aug. 31 brought his current total of rare varieties to the highest ever in his possession.

Based on her experience with fishermen who have donated rare lobsters to the aquarium, Jones said they avoid killing rare lobsters for fear of jinxing their fishing season.

But instead of donating the lobsters to Jones or selling them to a restaurant to be used for marketing purposes, Rose plans to release the cohort back into the ocean when the summer winds down. 

“We’ll keep them around for people to look at,” Rose said. “I’d rather just set them free. Something that unique, you might as well give it a chance.”

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Two split-shell lobsters are among the five rare varieties of multi-colored crustaceans at Allen’s Seafood in Harpswell.

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Reporter on the Brunswick/Harpswell beat. Proud Bowdoin grad that you can find reporting on municipal, school, and community news, or inside the many coffee and sandwich shops around the Midcoast. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100.