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A giant lobster is caught in Bermuda. How common is that?

Hurricane Nicole delivered a 14-pound lobster to Bermuda fishermen. Will global warming impact the chances of finding such large surprises in the ocean?

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    People climb over a giant lobster statue in Shediac, New Brunswich, Canada on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013.
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Hurricane Nicole brought a gigantic surprise for two fishermen as it swept through Bermuda: A 14-pound lobster with two-feet long claws.

The fishermen believe it is one of the largest lobsters ever caught in the area, The Washington Post reports.

"We were fishing for snapper the day after hurricane Nicole struck and we hooked this massive lobster instead," Matthew Jones said Monday, after posting pictures of the giant lobster catch on Facebook. Captain Jones, who was fishing with Tristan Loescher from a dock, said he tried to call a marine biologist and local fishing experts, but no one responded.

"I tried a few other people before deciding the best thing we could do was get it back in the ocean before it got too weak," he said.

Finding such a big catch is not unusual. For example, a 27-pound lobster was caught off the Maine coast in 2012; a diver found a 12-pound lobster off San Diego in 2006; and a Canadian crew caught a 20-pound lobster in 2008. Big lobsters simply mean they have been swimming in the deep a long time, The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2011:

These clawed colossi aren't freaks or flukes, explains Jelle Atema, a professor of biology at Boston University. They're just very old.

Lobsters, he says, seem to never stop growing. Their crustacean cousins, crabs, reach a point at which the carapace (the outer shell) simply will not grow any larger. But nature never hemmed in lobsters.

"They keep on growing," says Dr. Atema. "You can end up with very, very large lobsters."

Because of restrictions on the type of lobsters that can be caught legally, the animals have been spared the fate of overharvesting.

But for those fisherman who still dream of netting a giant lobster, there might be an upcoming hurdle to that dream: global warming.

A study published in September found that baby lobsters may not be able to survive if the ocean continues to warm at its expected rate. The scientists, affiliated with the University of Maine – a state known for its lobsters – said the lobster larvae struggle to survive in waters 5 degrees F. warmer than the typical temperatures currently found in the western Gulf of Maine, a key lobster fishing area.

The lobsters’ decline has already been noticed in the southern reaches, including the south of Cape Cod. Baby lobsters grow faster under high temperatures, but also die younger. In Connecticut’s Long Island Sound, a lobster die-off has also been observed since 1999, as reported by The New York Times, although most fishermen believed it is because of pesticide runoff. Scientists studying the lobster population say warmer waters cause the animal to be unable to process minerals.

But laws and local policies have been helpful in attempts to help lobsters survive. In 2013, the Long Island Sound’s fishery had its first seasonal shutdown to allow the lobsters to recover and rebuild, as reported by CBS. Maine prohibits fishermen from catching lobsters that either too old (and more fertile) or too young (so they have time to grow). 

The Bermuda lobster was caught in an area where it is not legal to catch the animals. Jones said such huge lobsters wouldn’t taste good anyway because of its size and age. He considered donating it to an aquarium, but was wary of how past donated lobsters have been stolen.

"After never seeing something that size before," Mr. Loescher told Inside Edition, "I decided it was best for it to go back to the home he came from."

He swam with the lobster for about 30 minutes before the animal regained enough strength to swim away.

 
 
 

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