How Larry the bright blue lobster avoided a grisly fate as someone's dinner
British restaurant stops selling lobster altogether after a 'special encounter' with Larry
When British chef Austin Hopley was sorting through his latest seafood delivery, he was blown away by what he found.
"I started unwrapping these lobsters and, lo and behold, the second one that I unwrapped was like the most decadent sapphire blue," Hopley told As It Happens guest host Duncan McCue.
"It was unreal. I had to do, like, a double, triple glance."
Hopley is the head chef at The Hare on the Hill restaurant in Littleborough, England. Normally, a fresh lobster delivery would go straight into the pot to be served up for dinner, but Hopley says he couldn't bring himself to boil the stunning blue creature, the likes of which he'd never seen before.
Instead, he and his colleagues named the lobster Larry, "because it's alliterative and fun," and, with permission from their boss, set out to find him a new home.
"I wasn't tempted to cook him at all, especially after we took some time and did a little bit of research," Hopley said. "Realizing the rarity of the animal, I really couldn't bring myself to cook it."
Some lobsters have blue shells due to a rare genetic defect that causes them to produce an excessive amount of a particular protein.
The odds of catching one are about one in two million, according to the University of Maine Lobster Institute — though its executive director, Rob Bayer, admitted to the BBC that statistic is just "a guess."
Finding a new home for Larry was no easy feat. Littleborough isn't near the ocean, and The Hare on the Hill doesn't have a fish tank on the premises.
Several nearby aquariums turned Larry down. One didn't have the appropriate facilities for a salt-water creature that resides in cold temperatures. Another already had a blue lobster, and feared the two rare beasts wouldn't get along.
"It was absolutely crazy. We got passed on from very small aquatic shops where we started, to a bigger corporation to a bigger one, to a bigger one," he said.
He says they made about 50 calls before they finally got lucky with Sea Life Manchester. A representative from the aquarium has since taken Larry to his new home.
"It is certainly an extraordinary find and worth saving to try to educate the public about these amazing creatures in the ecosystem," Brendan Malone, Sea Life Manchester's curator, told BBC News.
Meanwhile, The Hare on the Hill has permanently removed lobster from its menu.
"The blue one really put it into perspective as to what we [were] actually selling, and it wouldn't have felt morally right for us to continue buying … lobsters after we had this special encounter with Larry," Hopley said.
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Austin Hopley produced by Niza Lyapa Nondo.