As It Happens

Rare orange lobster rescued from Ontario grocery store, moved to Toronto aquarium

Anyone working at a supermarket's seafood section knows that most of the lobsters they see are headed for a pot of hot water. But after a bright orange lobster was found at a Whitby, Ont., store, its owners resolved to intervene before its fate reached a boiling point.

Niki Lundquist says lobster was named 'Pinchy,' after a lobster who appeared in 1998 The Simpsons episode

Niki Lundquist tweeted this photo of Pinchy, a lobster with an unusual orange colour. The lobster was saved from ending up as a meal, and will live at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in Toronto. (@niki_lundquist/Twitter)

Story Transcript

Anyone working at a supermarket's seafood section knows that most of the lobsters they see are headed for a pot of hot water. But after a bright orange lobster was found at a Whitby, Ont., store, its owners resolved to intervene before its fate reached a boiling point.

"You couldn't miss that. Truly, I mean it, it stood out. It really did look like it was pre-cooked," Niki Lundquist, a lawyer whose partner co-manages the store, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

Most lobsters' carapaces are a dark, mottled blue or brown colour, to help avoid detection from underwater predators. When they're cooked, they transform into a bright red or orange.

Lundquist said she did some searching online and found that orange lobsters are extremely rare.

The other lobsters were kind of picking on him, quite literally with their claws.- Niki Lundquist

But it's unclear exactly how rare they are. 

Chris Cash, a spokesperson for the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, estimates blue lobsters occur "on the order of a few in a million," while other colour variants, including orange, are even rarer.

However, she noted the institute doesn't collect specific data of the frequency of differently-coloured lobsters — despite being cited often in similar stories over the years.

"To my knowledge, there are no hard numbers on this," Cash said.

Soon, the lobster was given the name Pinchy, after another lobster that appears in a 1998 episode of The Simpsons. In that episode, Homer originally planned to eat the lobster, but grows attached to it, adopting it as a pet.

Once Pinchy had captured the hearts and minds of the staff, Lundquist said they knew they couldn't seal his fate with a customer's boiling pot of water.

She and her partner bought Pinchy, and sought to find him a new home. She says the decision was aided by the fact that people didn't seem interested in buying the unusually-coloured crustacean. Plus, he appeared to be attracting negative attention from his peers.

"The other lobsters were kind of picking on him, quite literally with their claws," he said.

Lundquist said they had considered releasing Pinchy back into the ocean, but they weren't sure whether it would be safe for him. They didn't know exactly what waters he had been pulled from, and worried about what might happen if he were released into a habitat that he wasn't accustomed to.

The solution came, she recalled, when a young girl and her mother saw Pinchy in the store and recalled seeing other unusually-coloured lobsters at Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto.

"A light bulb kind of went off," she said. They contacted the aquarium, who agreed to take Pinchy in. They carefully packaged him in the same way fresh lobsters are taken to the store, but instead drove him to his new home in Toronto — on National Lobster Day, coincidentally.

Lundquist says Pinchy is currently in quarantine as the staff prepare to migrate him to his more permanent home in a larger tank, alongside another rare orange lobster, and one she recalled was half-blue and half-mottled brown.

Ultimately, Lundquist is grateful that Pinchy will likely have a much safer future than his namesake, who Homer accidentally boiled to death (and then later enjoyed with some butter on the side).

"I think that everybody who has had a hand in his story will visit Pinchy. I think that people have a really strong connection to the little orange guy," she said.


Written by Jonathan Ore. Produced by Ashley Fraser.

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