Extremely rare white lobster turns up in Bantry Bay

Only one in a 100 million lobsters are white, and female caught in west Cork is in spawn

Rare female white lobster caught off Mizen Head, west Cork by the vessel “Fair Maiden”. Photograph: Niall Duffy/West Cork Photo

Rare female white lobster caught off Mizen Head, west Cork by the vessel “Fair Maiden”. Photograph: Niall Duffy/West Cork Photo

 

The whole country may have spent the past month basking in sunshine and getting as red as the proverbial lobster but for west Cork fisherman Donagh O’Connor, the warm weather has brought a rather more unusual example of the species: a very rare white lobster.

According to the American Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, only one in a 100 million lobsters are white lobsters so you can imagine Mr O’Connor’s surprise when he lifted his crab pots in Bantry Bay to discover a white female amid the crabs.

“We were about six miles out of Castletownbere when we lifted the pots. I knew white lobster were rare but I had no idea they were that rare,” said the skipper of the Fair Maiden, which he fishes out of Castletownbere for brown crabs along with his crewman, Laurynas Jonusas.

“When we learned how rare she was, we decided to give her to Kevin Flannery at the Oceanworld Aquarium in Dingle. Females have a much wider tail than the male, and she has eggs up under so she’s in spawn. Kevin is going to try and get her to lay and hatch out small lobsters.”

Castletownbere skipper Donagh O’Connor. Photograph: Niall Duffy/West Cork Photo
Castletownbere skipper Donagh O’Connor. Photograph: Niall Duffy/West Cork Photo

Better survival odds

Over at Oceanworld, Mr Flannery is eagerly awaiting the new arrival and her possible offspring, as he reveals lobsters can lay up to 5,000 eggs but only 1 per cent will survive in the wild, while lobsters that hatch out in aquariums such as Oceanworld can see up to 60 per cent of their offspring survive.

“We work with the fishermen in a symbiotic way,” said Mr Flannery. “They bring us buried or pregnant female lobsters and we try to get them to hatch out. We feed the baby lobsters with brine shrimp from Utah and keep them until they are ready to fight one another and then we give them back to the fishermen.

“White lobsters are very rare – we have one in Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry in Co Down and we got one a few years ago but there’s no guarantee that a white lobster will produce white lobsters – we could be lucky in breeding more white ones or we may not, but we are going to give a try.

“You do get different-coloured morphs, as they call them. Just last week a fisherman called Frank Scanlan was crab fishing off the Maharees when he caught an orange lobster, which is also very rare and he’s brought him in to us, so we might try and get him to breed too.”