One Lucky Lobster

It’s now living large in Newport News.

When a speckled lobster turned up in a Manassas Red Lobster, a well-trained employee noticed the three-pounder’s distinctive markings and put in a call to the seafood chain’s Orlando corporate headquarters.

Turns out “Freckles” was a calico lobster, so rare that the chances of catching one are 1 in 30 million. Instead of a pot of boiling water, Freckles belonged under the protective umbrella of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, of which the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News is a proud member.

Alerted to Freckles’ plight, Chris Crippen, Virginia Living Museum’s senior director of animal welfare and conservation, and aquarium curator, Patricia Lawryniuk, traveled north to Manassas to retrieve the lucky lobster, who was waiting, serenely, in the restaurant’s live crustacean tank.

The museum team estimated that Freckles was 15 years old (calicos can live to be 100) and transported him to the museum by van.

Soon, Freckles was dining on shrimp, squid, and herring and, after a short quarantine, went on display in the museum’s Chesapeake Bay Gallery. “We see this as an opportunity to share nature’s anomaly with guests,” Crippen notes.

Calico lobsters seldom survive in the wild because their bright colors attract predators. So protecting the species is paramount. Sadly, Lawryniuk noted, the museum doesn’t breed lobsters—which is “a highly specific process.”

Both the Virginia Living Museum and Red Lobster are partners in the California-based Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program. Sandy Meisler, service manager at the Manassas Red Lobster restaurant, said, “We’re glad Freckles is staying in Virginia.” TheVLM.org


This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue.

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