Once in a blue shell: Ahead of hurricane, Marblehead couple makes one-in-two-million find

A wife-and-husband crew of a Marblehead lobster boat made a rare catch on Thursday morning, Sept. 14: a lobster with a brilliant periwinkle blue shell.

“It was really blue — like blue-rubber-gloves blue,” Anne Rodgers told the Marblehead Current on Thursday afternoon. “It was beautiful.”

Anne Rodgers holds the rare blue lobster that she and her husband, Dave, caught on their boat, Liberty, She described the catch as ‘gorgeous.’ COURTESY PHOTO

Rodgers and her husband, Marblehead Veterans Agent David Rodgers were on their boat, Liberty, moving traps ahead of Hurricane Lee’s arrival.

“We were on the outside of Tinker’s Island near the Roaring Bull area,” Anne explained. 

Her eyes widened as she spotted the blue lobster among the catch.

“I said, ‘Look, it’s blue,’ and Dave said, ‘What’s blue?'” recalled Anne. “I said, ‘The lobster.'”

According to experts, blue lobsters like the one caught by the Rodgers are blue due to a genetic mutation, which causes them to produce an excessive amount of a particular protein. When that protein binds to astaxanthin, a carotenoid pigment that gives lobster shells their typical reddish-brown color, the shell turns blue as it hardens.

Blue lobsters are what one might call a once-in-a-blue-moon find — about one in two million, according to experts at the New England Aquarium. While rare, blue lobsters are not the most uncommon variation. Yellow and calico lobsters appear just once in every 30 million lobsters, while orange occurs in only one out of every 10 million, according to experts.

The couple, who have fished for lobster together for over 10 years, had never before seen a blue lobster in person, despite decades in the industry. Anne said her husband has more experience on the water and has caught lobsters with hints of blue pigmentation but nothing as vibrant as this one.

A close-up view of the vibrant blue lobster, a genetic mutation and one-in-two-million catch, that Anne and Dave Rodgers landed on their boat, Liberty, on Thursday, Sept. 14. COURTESY PHOTO

On Liberty Thursday morning, the Rodgers confirmed their blue lobster was a legal size to keep. They then considered their options. Anne said she briefly entertained visions of having it mounted as a trophy.

“My head started going, ‘Oh, I’d love to get this mounted or something,'” Rodgers recalled. “It was beautiful.”

Anne said they also briefly considered contacting the New England Aquarium or a seafood distributor, envisioning the rare lobster on display.

But after getting over their initial excitement, Dave expressed concern that their luck could worsen if they profited from the rare catch by selling it or giving it to an aquarium.

“We decided, with the storm coming up, it’s bad luck to keep the blue lobster,” she said. “In the end, we decided to throw the lobster back in the water.”

Rodgers enjoys the months she spends lobstering with her husband each year. But she said rough fall ocean conditions as storms roll in and dense fog can make the work exhausting and even dangerous.

She looks for creative outlets like crafting lobster-claw Christmas ornaments during the winter off-season.

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