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Wow: A Lobster with a Message

Out of the lobster pot, into the… spotlight. That’s the story of Shedd’s southern rock lobster, and it starts 9,700 miles away, in the cold, clean coastal waters of Tasmania.

The 9-pound, 19-inch flame red southern rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii), now comfortably backed into a cave in Shedd’s Oceans gallery, had been gently hauled out of a lobster trap by Anthony Titley at Currie Harbor, King Island, Tasmania, earlier this year. We know this because of a white bar-coded “bracelet” affixed to the crustacean’s left antenna.

The tracking tag is part of the “Clean Green” sustainable management program of Southern Rocklobster Limited (SRL), a trading company for Australian southern rock lobster that is owned by local fishers such as Titley. SRL’s product is certified as sustainable “from pot to plate,” with the highest industry standards for environmental management, food safety and quality, workplace safety and animal welfare.

But this lobster was even too good to eat, at least right away. SRL made him an ambassador for Australia’s sustainable fishing industry at the National Restaurant Association’s 2008 convention in Chicago, where he was quickly nicknamed “Wow” for showgoers’ reaction to his size and vivid color. At the end of the convention, SRL offered to donate the lobster to Shedd.

“We knew of Shedd’s strong commitment to the environment, sustainable fisheries and to Australia,” said Ian Harrison, CEO of Australian Made, Australian Grown, a not-for-profit organization at the convention’s Australian pavilion. “We were compelled to call Shedd with the hopes that the lobster could continue to educate the public about being good stewards of our planet. We were pleased that they were able to welcome him in so quickly.”

“He’s a great ambassador for sustainable fishing practices, and for the species itself,” said George Parsons, Shedd’s director of fishes. The lobster’s story complements Shedd’s Right Bite sustainable seafood program, which includes partnerships with local seafood purveyors and restaurateurs as well as educational events for the public and a popular seafood wallet card.

The lobster himself will look a little less like seafood after his next molt, when he’ll shed the tracking tag along with his exoskeleton. 

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