Crustacean mystery solved: a good Samaritan raises money to buy and liberate mammoth lobsters
In last week's edition of the Press, the front page shot was of two island teens along with the giant blue lobster they found washed up dead on Head's Beach. Not long after the photo ran, we got a call, and an explanation about the origins of the giant lobster. And, we learned that her name was Lilly.
Lilly was one of 20 lobsters that Stephanie Hryzan, 21, saved from the boiling pot over the course of her summer.
After three summers of working for the Ocean Technology Foundation, notching lobsters funded by the North Cape Lobster Restoration Project, Hryzan found herself out of a job when the project ended in June. "I became sort of attached" to lobsters and Hryzan said she got a summer job selling lobsters for Narragansett Bay Lobster Company, which has a retail booth near the Block Island Ferry terminal in Point Judith.
"It all began Fourth of July weekend," Hryzan said about her sideline. When the draggers offloaded their catch of lobsters at the Pt. Judith docks, Hryzan said she regularly saw three or four lobsters in the 10 to 20 pound range each week that had come from the waters of George's Bank. "Do we really have to sell them," Hryzan asked of her employers.
"I put up a bill board" at the retail booth asking people to "Help save Pinchy" or other giants to which she gave equally cute names. To her billboard, Hryzan also added the "5 top reasons why jumbo lobsters should be released," and listed the reasons as: 1. They are between 40 and 100 years old. 2. They have a dwindling population. 3. Bigger lobsters produce more babies. 4. It helps the Rhode Island lobster population. 5. Of every batch of eggs, only a few survive to adults.
She said she also lives by the Lobster Golden Rule: "Never eat anything that's older than you."
Hryzan said every time someone came in to buy lobsters, she'd "really push them" to give a couple of bucks to save the big ones. A lot of people donated, Hryzan said, adding, "A few people actually gave me $20."
With the money she collected, some $1,200 over the course of the summer," Hryzan would buy the giant lobsters at current value, put the money in the cash register and bring them home to Jamestown.
She'd put on her wetsuit and dive out off Head's Beach to about seven feet of water and release them.
Unfortunately, Lilly, a 13pound female, didn't make it. And Hryzan speculated that it's because blue lobsters have a different diet then regular ones. "She probably starved to death," Hryzan said, or perhaps she was just weak, she suggested.
"From the beginning I knew I was taking a chance by letting these offshore deepwater lobsters go in local warmer waters, but they had a better chance here than in a boiling pot of water," Hryzan said.
Last Friday, Hryzan got in her car and drove to the University of Tampa, where she began her final semester on Monday.
She hopes that people will learn that lobsters over 10 pounds "are breeders," and that "to boil one over 10 pounds is only instant gratification. We need to look at the big picture" to restore the local lobster population.