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Rare blue lobster caught in Ocean City

Fishing captain donates cerulean crustacean to National Aquarium in D.C.

By Michelle Deal-Zimmerman, The Baltimore Sun

5:37 PM EDT, June 18, 2012

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You've heard of once in a blue moon, but what about once in a blue lobster?

The crew of The Potluck fishing boat came up with a sparkling catch last week off the shores of Ocean City: a rare blue lobster.

Capt. John Gourley brought in the blue lobster with his normal catch to Martin Fish Co. in West Ocean City, where he typically sells his lobsters in the retail market. But a different fate awaits Toby, as the cerulean crustacean is now known.

Weighing a little more than a pound, the lobster is destined for the National Aquarium in Washington, according to Ginger Nappi, the assistant manager of Martin Fish Co., where the lobster is currently residing in a tank until aquarium officials arrive.

Nappi said the lobster, now named Toby, has drawn crowds over the weekend who can't believe their eyes.

"It's a gorgeous blue color. Underneath, it's like an albino color," she said. "Tons of people have been coming in all weekend."

The University of Maine Lobster Institute says the blue color is the result of a genetic defect that is a 1 in 2 million phenomenon. But Nappi said this didn't exactly happen out of the blue for the fishing captain.

"He caught one nine years ago," she said, explaining that the first blue lobster the captain caught did not survive very long.

Gourley said not only was this his second blue catch, but he also had the same guy on the crew with him this time. He fishes the waters 50-60 miles off Ocean City year-round, every week, for two to three days, catching more than 1,000 pounds of lobsters and even more of crabs.

When he pulled the blue lobster out of the tank, he wasn't exactly surprised. Gourley said that lobsters he catches appear to come in a host of colors.

"We catch some that are totally green and black, not a speck of red on them," he said. "But others are bright orange."

The rare find off Ocean City is the second time a blue lobster has been caught this year in the waters off North America. The New York Daily News reported that a blue lobster was caught off the coast of Nova Scotia earlier this spring. That boat captain initially put the lobster up for sale to the highest bidder, but later changed his mind.

Gourley said the National Aquarium was actually searching for a blue lobster to display and he was happy to make the donation.

"I catch lobsters and sell them. That's how I make my money," he said. "If I was to sell it on the market, I would get about 10 bucks. That's a small price to pay for everyone to get the chance to see it."