Huge lobster finds aquarium home after cross-country journey

Posted Aug. 22, 2011, at 7:18 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 22, 2011, at 8:37 p.m.
Jennifer Vargas, a bookkeeper at New England Lobster Company in San
Francisco, saved the massive &quotLeroy the Lobster" from death by
donating him to the New York Aquarium. Leroy hails from the waters
around New Brunswick's Deer Island.
Courtesy photo
Jennifer Vargas, a bookkeeper at New England Lobster Company in San Francisco, saved the massive "Leroy the Lobster" from death by donating him to the New York Aquarium. Leroy hails from the waters around New Brunswick's Deer Island.

SAINT JOHN, New Brunswick — A gargantuan lobster hauled from the waters around Deer Island has found a lavish new home in the New York Aquarium.

Leroy weighed about 18 pounds and was likely 75 years old when he landed in a San Francisco seafood distributor, and might have found himself on a Las Vegas dinner plate shortly after if it hadn’t been for a kindly company bookkeeper.

“The thought of this guy being put in a pot of boiling water was just too much,” said Jennifer Vargas, an accountant for New England Lobster Co.

After all, Leroy had a long journey. After managing to evade death and capture since around the Second World War, he finally was picked up by New Brunswick’s Young’s Lobster Co. Ltd., which sent him to a distributor in Boston. From there, he flew across the continent to California, said Lee Smith, a sales official for Boston Lobster Co.

It was in California that Leroy’s conspicuous size caught Vargas’ eye.

Vargas doesn’t usually see the incoming stock, but Leroy stood apart from the rest so much that the company sorters called the entire staff to come take a look.

She said she asked her boss to let her donate the lobster — which could have been worth $180 — to an aquarium. While none of the local aquariums would accept him because of his faraway Eastern Canada heritage, the Monterey Bay Aquarium helped her post an advertisement on the International Forum of Professional Aquarists.

At 6:24 a.m. the next day, she got an email from a researcher at the New York Aquarium stating they were “very interested” in Leroy and would pay for the shipping, if he was still available. Twenty minutes later the Maine State Aquarium called her, but she already had agreed to send him to the New York Aquarium, she said.

After spending only about a week in California, Leroy was packed in Styrofoam and ice and sent overnight to the Coney Island facility.

“Poor guy was having to do a little gymnastics,” Vargas said of his tight, temporary confinement.

“We knew we had to have it,” Jon Forrest Dohlin, Wildlife Conservation Society vice president and director of the New York Aquarium, said in a statement given to Postmedia News. “He’s a magnificent creature that has been delighting our guests since his arrival.”

Vargas said she was very happy for the massive lobster, who now would enjoy a regular diet of shrimp.

“He’s got a great retirement villa,” Vargas said.

While Leroy is a sizable addition to the New York Aquarium, he’s not the biggest lobster recorded. According to Guinness World Records, a lobster caught in Nova Scotia in 1977 weighed 44 pounds.

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