WELLFLEET — In his 15 years of commercial lobster fishing, David Stamatis says he’s never seen a lobster like the one he pulled out of his trap in Cape Cod Bay on July 18.
From among the typical brick-red and brown crustaceans crawled a black lobster mottled with bright yellow and orange spots.
A calico lobster is a one-in-30-million mutant. It is the third-rarest lobster variant in the world, behind only the split-colored and the albino lobsters.
The mottled shell of the calico lobster is the result of a genetic mutation that alters the amounts of different pigments produced by the crustacean’s cells. The condition is not a good thing for the lobster — a calico’s bright orange spots make it an easy target for predators and partially contribute to its rarity, according to Smithsonian magazine.
Stamatis, who takes people on educational excursions on his lobster boat, F/V D-Tails, was showing a family how traps are hauled up when they saw the calico. “It kind of gave them a thrill,” he says.
“It’s a pretty cool-looking lobster,” he notes.
But now he has to figure out what to do with it. He has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to give it away. “I want to donate it so that others can enjoy it and maybe it can be studied,” he said.
The New England Aquarium has not responded to his inquiry. The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History was enthusiastic but said it didn’t have an appropriate tank. The museum reached out to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which said its tanks would be too warm for the lobster. Stamatis hopes to hear from the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut.
“So far, I have no takers,” he says.
For now, Stamatis is keeping it in a tank in his house at a cool 44 degrees. “It’s in a good environment,” he says. If no organization takes it, he’s considering holding a charity raffle to give the lobster away while raising money for a good cause. Or he might just release it back into the wild.
There’s one particular fate Stamatis hopes doesn’t befall the lobster: “I don’t want anyone to eat it.”
During an interview with the Independent, Stamatis initially said that he had not given the lobster a name. But later, he interrupted himself to christen the crustacean.
“Let’s call it Clarice,” he said. “Clarice the Calico Lobster — and we’re looking for a home for her.”