Under the surface of lobster fishing

Lobster labelled "Bretagne" could may actually be imported from Britain and Ireland.

23 April 2009

I WOULD like to thank Frances Beasley on her most informative article on Lamb, and the excellent recipe she provided. I tried it and it was delicious.

However I would like make some comment on her "Lobster season begins in April" article, which is somewhat misleading.

We are of course talking about the lobster (with large claws) that we find here in French restaurants and fishmongers.

This will be either the European lobster (homarus vulgaris) or, sadly more often than not, the Canadian Lobster (homarus americanus). This (large clawed) type of lobster is not found anywhere else in the world. Anything from any other parts such as Australia, the far east, or North Africa have smaller, or no claws, and are really crayfish or "langouste".

For the lobsters we find and eat here in France there is no season. They are fished for, bought and sold, all the year round. It is maybe because they can be somewhat expensive in the winter, due to fishing problems, that this myth has arisen.

The American lobster (homarus americanus is found along mainly along the eastern shores of North America (Maine) and also along the eastern seaboard of Canada (Newfoundland). While it looks similar to the European lobster it is genetically different and there are visible differences when you see them side by side.

These are exported (live and frozen) in vast numbers to Europe as the lobster fishery in Canada is the largest in the world.

They are therefore substantially cheaper to buy. However most discerning chefs prefer the European lobster because the flesh is considered to firmer and tastier.

The European lobster now mainly inhabits the shores around England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

It is also still found, but only in very small quantities, along the west coast of northern France. However overfishing by French fisherman over the years has almost brought them to extinction.

In fishmongers and restaurants in France lobsters on the menu, or slab, will sometimes be labelled as either from Canada or Bretagne.

The difference in price will often be double for the “Bretagne” which is the European lobster. However these Bretagne lobsters will almost certainly have been imported into Brittany from Ireland or Scotland and sold on throughout France by the old established shellfish dealers who still operate there.

Duncan Erskine
Lot et Garonne

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