Stress, attention prove fatal for rare yellow lobster

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KINGSTON — August 13, 2010 — Efforts to sustain the life of a rare yellow lobster caught in local waters last month ended Tuesday when the crustacean died in a secluded protective tank at URI’s Narragansett Bay campus, where it had been kept since Aug. 5.

The young male, which weighed one-and-a-quarter pounds and was taken from a trap about three weeks ago by lobsterman Denny Ingram, had been on display at the fishermen’s coop at the state pier in Newport, where visitors flocked to see the rare find. Scientists estimate it’s coloring as a one in 30-million occurrence.

URI marine research specialist Edward Baker said Ingram’s “intuition was spot-on” that all the attention was dangerous and could lead to the lobster “being loved to death.” Ingram requested assistance from URI, and Baker transferred the lobster to a safer site. He cited stress from repeated changes in air temperature and handling as a cumulative problem over several days.

“We put him in cooler water, in a tank with an airstone in a dark quiet corner, and gave him some squid and mussel,” he said.

But the lobster still did not eat, and was found lifeless in the same spot in which he had initially been placed.

The remains have been placed in a walk-in freezer where other rare marine specimens are kept, and will be preserved. Scientists may examine it in the future.