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Rare blue lobster caught off Sheringham

PUBLISHED: 11:30 27 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:42 06 July 2010

Sheringham fishermen Michael Wright and Peter Smith with the rare blue lobster they caught in their pots. Photo: Karen Bethell

Sheringham fishermen Michael Wright and Peter Smith with the rare blue lobster they caught in their pots. Photo: Karen Bethell

A rare, cobalt-blue lobster caught off Sheringham at the weekend was given a last-minute reprieve from the boiling pot, after the fishermen who snared it decided is was too unusual to eat.

A rare, cobalt-blue lobster caught off Sheringham at the weekend was given a last-minute reprieve from the boiling pot, after the fishermen who snared it decided is was too unusual to eat.

The lucky crustacean, which would have fetched around £16 as a dish in an upmarket restaurant, was netted by friends Michael Wright, Peter Smith and Barry Moore.

"The water was really clear so I could see the blue when we hauled the pots up, but I thought it was a polythene bag," Mr Wright explained. "I was really surprised when it turned out to be a lobster as I've been fishing for 35 years and I've never seen anything like it."

The group caught another five lobsters, all of which were the standard greenish-black colour, as well as a few crabs.

Mr Wright, a self-employed builder and part-time coastguard, said the 12" long creature narrowly escaped being served up on a plate.

"The blue one would have been cooked with the rest of them, but it was so weird and unusual, we decided to hang on to it," he said.

After being stored in the salad tray of Mr Wright's fridge overnight, the lobster was returned to the sea.

"After my sister Melanie and son Simon saw it, they persuaded me to put it back in the water," he explained. "Melanie even offered me £5 to let it go."

Estimates on the rarity of blue lobster vary, with one American study saying the odds of finding one are around 2 million to one, and another US aquarium researcher claiming that one in 5 million lobsters is blue.

A similar coloured lobster was caught off the coast of the Isle of Man last year, with another trapped by a New Hampshire lobsterman off the Isle of Shoals just last week, and an 10 million to one orange lobster was caught off the Isle of Wight and donated to the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth, last spring.

Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre aquarist Chris Popham said he had seen around half a dozen similar lobsters over the past five years.

"Basically, the colour in the shell is just pigmentation and, as they get older, they tend to lose their colour," he explained.

"We do already have a blue one and they are fairly rare because they attract predators because of their colour, but we recently had an albino lobster which is much more unusual as there is only around a one in 20 million chance of finding one."

Lobsters, which shed their shells around four times a year to grow, can reach up to a metre in length. They are usually dull in colour and, when cooked, turn red as pigments break down. Their average lifespan is 50 years, with the biggest one ever caught - a four-foot, 44 pounder netted off Nova Scotia, Canada in 1934 - estimated to be 100 years old. The creatures were not always considered a delicacy and in 17th and 18th century America, they were used as fertiliser.

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