Nova Scotia

Massive lobster back in ocean after grandfather urged woman to save it

Katie Conklin of Halifax says her elderly grandfather in New Brunswick inspired her to act to return the huge creature back to the ocean.

Katie Conklin of Halifax says her elderly grandfather in New Brunswick inspired her to act

The huge lobster is shown in Alma, N.B., next to a regular-sized lobster for sale. (CP/Catherine MacDonald)

Katie Conklin says she didn't wake up on Tuesday intending to save a giant lobster. 

The 27-year-old Halifax woman says that changed when she was contacted by her grandfather, who is in his late 80s and lives near Woodstock, N.B.

He had heard about a 23-pound live lobster at a seafood shop in Alma, N.B., that was estimated to be several decades old. Conklin is a vegan and says her grandfather definitely is not, but they agreed about the lobster's fate.

"He doesn't deserve to die in a tank," she said. 

Katie Conklin, 27, went vegan three years ago out of a belief that all living creatures matter. (Katie Conklin)

Conklin says at her grandfather's urging, she called up the Alma Lobster Shop to see what could be done to save the lobster. The shop's owners agreed to sell the lobster, dubbed King Louie, to her for $230, or $10 per pound. It had been caught by a fisherman from St. Martins, N.B., on the Bay of Fundy. 

They also offered to ship Louie to her in Halifax to release it, but she didn't want the lobster to suffer in transit. So the shop's owners helped her out.

"It was released on a vessel out in the Bay of Fundy in front of the village," Alma Lobster Shop co-owner Catherine MacDonald told The Canadian Press. 

Elizabeth MacDonald, an employee of the Alma Lobster Shop, holds up a huge lobster. (The Canadian Press)

Conklin says she doesn't consider herself an animal rights activist, and has never done anything like this before. She went vegan three years ago out of a belief that all lives matter, including animals.

She knows there are many other lobsters being caught and sold for consumption, but it matters to her that she could help King Louie. 

"He's probably four times as old as I am," she said. 

King Louie isn't the first rescue lobster

Alma's King Louie is just the latest in a string of lobsters that have been released into the wild as an act of compassion. In May, a lobster bought at an Ontario grocery store was shipped all the way to Nova Scotia to be released back into the sea. 

In other parts of the world, the release of caught lobsters has raised concerns. Sweden tried to get the EU to ban the import of live lobsters from North America earlier this year. The Scandinavian country worried that some of imported lobsters were getting into local waters and threatening the local species.

The EU found there wasn't support for listing the foreign lobsters as an invasive species and did not back the ban in the end.

Can rescued lobsters survive?

It is possible for caught lobsters to live for many years after being returned to the sea, says Prof. Robert Steneck, a marine biologist at the University of Maine. It all depends on how the lobsters were handled in captivity, and if they get enough oxygen and their gills were kept wet. 

"We've had lobsters that were kept cold and damp but not in water for a few days before we get them back to the lab, and they've lived in the lab for years," he said. 

Lobsters should be returned to the same environment they came from for the best chance at survival, he said. There is also a risk of a lobster from another region bringing disease to a new area. 

"It's a pretty unlikely risk, but it's not an impossible one," he told CBC News. 

Overall, Steneck says discussion about returning lobsters to the ocean can be a good thing for raising awareness about the ecosystem. 

"I'd rather see more people have sensitivies to the natural world around us," he said. "There are a lot of potential positives there."