Atlantic lobster caught in the Pacific

There was something very fishy about a lobster caught over the weekend off Vancouver, Canada, and Blair Calkins realized it immediately.

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Atlantic lobster caught in the Pacific; photo courtesy of Blair Calkins

That's because the large crustacean Calkins pulled from the depths, while prawn fishing with his son and friends off Bowen Island, was an Atlantic lobster complete with a set of claws.

Calkins, of course, was fishing in the Pacific.

Making his catch that much more peculiar, and mysterious, was that the female lobster was bursting with eggs.

"We were all shocked," Calkins told the Vancouver Sun. "We had a couple of people who work in the fish industry on our boat and they were shocked, too."

It's mysterious because the only lobster found in Canadian waters is the American lobster, and it only inhabits Atlantic coastal waters off Canada and the U.S.

It does not inhabit the Pacific, yet that, presumably, is what Calkins caught.

The fisherman wondered whether to release the lobster, an alien species, and risk having those eggs produce a whole batch of Atlantic lobsters in a place where they don't belong.

Instead he placed it in a tank soon after its capture on Saturday, and telephoned the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. But as of Tuesday morning he had yet to receive a return call, so he has decided to release the lobster sometime this week.

Meanwhile, the Sun reached out to University of British Columbia marine biologist Christopher Harley, who said catches of Atlantic lobster in the Pacific are rare, but not unheard of.

Harley theorized that the lobster was bought in a market and released alive, perhaps by an animal lover.

"When you have a combination of live seafood markets and members of the public who feel like it's not fair to the animals, then you have people buying them to set them free," Harley said.

Harley also said there was little chance of Atlantic lobsters establishing themselves in the Pacific, in large part due to the many predators that inhabit the much chillier Pacific.

"Maybe these lobsters can survive the temperature, but all of their babies get eaten by Dungeness crab, or something like that," the biologist said.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, between 1896 and 1966 there were at least 11 large-scale attempts at introducing American lobsters (Atlantic lobsters) into British Columbia and U.S. West Coast waters.

However, each attempt at establishing an American lobster fishery in the Pacific proved unsuccessful.

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