Soft shell lobsters arrive early

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May 18, 2012, 10:32 pm
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(NECN: Marnie MacLean) - Lobster dealers in Maine are calling it unprecedented: the arrival of soft shell lobsters in May.

They're more than a month early, that's good news for lobster lovers.

This shedder - or soft shell lobster, isn't supposed to be here, at least not yet anyway.

Lobster dealer Pete McAleney says they usually arrive in late June or early July but his fishermen started bringing them a few weeks ago.

"I've been in the business for 33 years and I've never seen anything happen like this," said Pete McAleney of New Meadows lobster.

McAleney and other lobstermen speculate that a mild winter has lead to warmer ocean temperatures - 48 degrees instead of the normal 40.

"The lobster doesn't have a calendar down there on the ocean floor," said McAleney. "He goes by the temp of the water."

And warmer tells the lobster to start moving and eating and molting - but this year it's spring instead of summer.

Soft shell lobster are more fragile and can't be shipped, making it more of a New England treat.

At the Clambake Restaurant in Scarborough, which can serve up to 5,000 people on a busy summer day, the early soft shells are unexpected good news.

"For us and the customer, it means lower price," explains Don Roth of the Clambake Restaurant. "Usually once soft shells come in prices drop because they are a lot more plentiful."

For Elena Logan, it means more lobster and less work.

"They are so easy to clean, and a little less expensive - a lot less, a whole lot less," said Logan.

Because it's so unusual, those in the lobster business aren't sure what this early soft shell arrival will mean for the rest of the season.

"If they stay soft and go harder early it may keep the price down through the summer a bit," said Roth. "Right now, I am hearing the catch is up - good for the consumer mostly."

"I am in 7th heaven, or lobster heaven - one or the other. I love lobster," said Logan.

Tags: maine, ocean , Marnie MacLean, lobsters, soft shell lobsters
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