Sunday, 14 August 2011

Albino lobster among catch of unusual species

A “ONE in 100 million” albino lobster, a snipe eel and a wreckfish are among a medley of unusual marine species caught by Irish fishermen over several weeks.

A separate lobster with two crusher claws instead of one has also been landed, along with a sea lamprey, according to Sea Fisheries Protection Authority officers Siubhán Ní Churraidhín and Declan MacGabhann.

The female white/albino lobster, named “Victoria” by her captors, was caught by Declan Clinton and crew on the Virtuous , while fishing for prawns some 34 miles east of Clogherhead, Co Louth, and landed into Howth, Co Dublin, on Thursday night.

Experts estimate there is a one in 100 million chance of making such a catch, according to Mr MacGabhann, who says “Victoria” is only the fifth albino lobster recorded in the last century in Irish waters.

Earlier this year an orange lobster – named “Billy” after the infamous Dutch king – was landed by Séamus Kirk of Clogherhead.

Local fisherman quipped at the time that the xanthochromic lobster was reacting to the election of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in the Louth constituency, and heading North.

It had a 30 in a million chance of being caught, Mr MacGabhann told The Irish Times .

“Victoria” is on display at the Sea Life centre in Bray, Co Wicklow, while “Billy” is attracting as much interest as the new resident penguins at the Mara Beo aquarium in Dingle, Co Kerry. A bright blue lobster (one in three million) was found earlier this month off the Clare coast by fisherman Gerry Sweeney.

Not to be outdone, the west coast has also created a few new records.

A male lobster with normal rusty red pigmentation but with two crusher claws instead of one has been found in a pot by currach skipper Mattie Conneely off Rossaveal. It has been donated to Galway Atlantaquaria in Salthill.

US marine scientists writing of this phenomenon in the Journal of Experimental Zoology said that only one of the paired crushers behaves as a normal crusher.

“The other claw has only the appearance of a crusher claw but behaves as a cutter claw,” marine expert at the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, Declan Quigley, has said.

Ms Ní Churraidhín, officer with the authority at Rossaveal, has been inundated with other specimens in the past couple of weeks, including a snipe eel caught on the Porcupine Bank by Ray Healy and Paul Conneely of the Maria Magdalena III .

The snipe eel ( Nemichthys scolopaceus ) was first recorded in Irish waters in May 1935, according to Mr Quigley, and there are only 27 known records of it here to date. He notes that their size may allow them to slip through the mesh of trawls, and they could also be discarded as having no commercial value.

A wreckfish and an unusual crustacean with no eyes, which may be a polychelid lobster, were also caught by Seánín Ned Ó Flatharta of the Glór na dTonn fishing vessel.

The wreckfish ( Polyprion americanus ) was caught on the Porcupine. The deep-water species inhabits caves and shipwrecks – hence its name. The Galway vessel Maggie C recorded a similar specimen a year ago.

The wreckfish was bought by Stephane Griesbach of Gannet Fishmongers and sold on to Oscar’s restaurant in Galway city, according to Ms Ní Churraidhín.

The sea lamprey was found attached to trawl doors of the Sean Oisín fishing vessel while also working on the Porcupine, according to Ms Ní Churraidhín. The vessel has just completed a survey for prawns on the bank.

Lampreys, which are often found in rivers, are regarded as very rare so far offshore, she says.

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