By Donald Wittkowski
Most lobsters hauled in by commercial fishing boats end up on someone’s dinner plate.
But a remarkably rare blue lobster caught this week by the crew of the Sea Isle City-based vessel “Two Dukes” appears headed for an aquarium instead of a pot of boiling water.
“Nah, I wouldn’t dare do that,” Eric Burcaw Sr., owner of the “Two Dukes,” said with a laugh when asked whether he would consider selling the bright blue crustacean for supper.
His sons, Eric Jr. and Kevin, were operating the boat about 85 miles off the coast of New Jersey when they caught the lobster Monday.
They showed off their exotic catch to the media on Thursday, one day after returning from sea. They were joined by fellow crew members Robert Martinelli, 26, of Sea Isle, and Joe O’Donnell, 31, of Dennis Township.
The Burcaw brothers did some research online and discovered that only one in about every two million lobsters is blue. The distinctive coloring is caused by a genetic abnormality.
Eric Burcaw Jr., 24, of Dennis Township, said he could hardly believe what he found in the lobster trap when it was pulled in the boat.
“I didn’t know what it was,” he said. “At first, I thought it was one of the blue gloves that we have on board.”
Kevin Burcaw, 21, of Upper Township, said he was standing near the back of the boat when he heard his brother let out a cheer, “I caught a blue lobster!”
“We’ve never seen one like that before,” Kevin said. “Usually, the lobsters we see are calico colored or have leopard-like spots on them, but never a blue one.”
Eric Burcaw Sr. 51, a resident of Upper Township whose family has been in the commercial fishing and lobster industry since 1976, said this is the first blue lobster he’s ever seen.
He estimated the blue crustacean, which weighs about 1.5 pounds, is 7 or 8 years old. For the time being, it is being kept in a container submerged in the lagoon where the Burcaws dock their boat off Park Road in Sea Isle City’s historic Fish Alley district.
“He’ll be fine. He’s just chilling out. Anything below 65 degrees, he’ll be OK,” Eric Burcaw Sr. said of the lobster adjusting to its temporary home in the 62-degree lagoon water.
Burcaw noted that he has been trying to donate the lobster to an aquarium. The Adventure Aquarium in Camden turned him down, so he plans to call the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The Atlantic City Aquarium agreed to take the lobster, but Burcaw would prefer seeing the creature go on display at a major aquarium.
“We don’t know for sure what we’re going to do with it,” he said.
On average, Burcaw is paid a market price of $6 per pound for the lobsters that are caught by his company, called Capt. Eric Inc.
As for the value of the rare blue lobster, he couldn’t even fathom a guess. But he stressed that it will be saved.
“We don’t know what we would sell it for. It’s probably worth more than what all of us are making,” he said, smiling.
Whatever ultimately happens to the blue lobster, it seems a whole lot luckier than a 15-pound mega-lobster once caught by Burcaw.
“That one’s mounted on the wall,” he said.