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Animal Defenders of Westchester
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Claws to Celebrate

The lobster who didn't come to dinner

January 7, 2006

It was hardly a dignified end to a long life.

Stuffed into a tank in a corner of the seafood section of a Plainview ShopRite, with chilled littleneck clams and a line of cocktail sauce bottles as neighbors, Hercules' future was looking grim.

But before the unusually large lobster, thought to be nearly 90 years old, could be bought, boiled and buttered, it was spotted by a Merrick man who was servicing the tank. Now Hercules will live out the golden years under care of the New York Aquarium in Coney Island.

"He avoided the fishermen's nets all these years and he could have ended up on someone's plate," said Alan Stewart, who paid $103 for the crustacean, upon whom he bestowed the name "Hercules" before donating it to the aquarium. Stewart owns Aqua-Visions, a Merrick company that installs and services tanks and aquariums.

The lobster, who is believed to be a male, weighs about 14 1/2 pounds and is about 2 1/2 feet long, said aquarium curator Paul Sieswerda. Its sex hasn't been officially determined and exact measurements haven't been taken, he said, because the creature is being held in quarantine for 30 days to make sure it is healthy and adjusts to its residence. It then will be examined and put on display in the aquarium's Sea Cliffs exhibit, with sea lions and seals as neighbors, helping visitors learn about sea predator/prey relationships.

"He's robust, has no abnormalities to his shell," Sieswerda said. "As far as I can tell, this animal looks in great shape."

Because lobsters continually outgrow their shells, and variables such as water temperature and food can impact their size, Hercules' exact age will likely never be determined. American lobsters are known to gain about 1 1/4 pounds every seven years.

It is unusual for a supermarket to have such a large lobster, Sieswerda said, because crustaceans of that size tend to be found farther offshore and often don't fit into the lobster traps used by fishermen who sell to seafood markets. Lobsters in supermarkets usually weigh from 1 1/4 to 3 pounds.

Hercules is certainly not the heaviest crustacean ever captured. That distinction, according to The Guinness Book of World Records, belongs to a 44-pound, 6-ounce lobster caught off Nova Scotia in 1977.

Stewart said he would have taken Hercules home with him if the aquarium hadn't stepped up to the plate. "I had to save him," Stewart, 57, said.

"I can't rescue all the lobsters, but I pardoned this guy for New Year's."

Copyright (c) 2006, Newsday, Inc.


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