Larry the Lobster was poised to be an inspirational tale.
The 15-pound lobster was at least in his 60s, according to scientists who spoke to the Portland Press Herald and ABC News, when he found his way from the sea to a seafood supplier.
Jeff Melluso, a chef and owner of a restaurant in Sunrise, Fla., pulled him out and propelled him to fame.
“He thought people would want to see a big lobster. They usually do,” the Press-Herald wrote last Friday. “Rocky, a 27-pounder caught off Cushing in 2012, had his picture in newspapers all over the country.”
Melluso pegged the lobster’s age as high as 110, and the crustacean became a local media star. He was soon dubbed Larry — after the muscular lifeguard lobster in SpongeBob SquarePants, the Miami Herald reports.
That makes him at least the second elderly Larry the Lobster to make headlines. In 2012, a 17-pound lobster trapped and sold in Connecticut was saved by a good Samaritan who bought him and released him into the sea. He was estimated to be at least 70.
The 2016 Larry was saved from the stockpot, too. He was destined for dinner when several concerned citizens worked with a group called iRescue Wildlife, Inc., to intervene, the Miami Herald reports.
Larry had been reserved for one family’s dinner when the activists offered to buy him and send him to freedom, ABC News reports.
“They really opened up my eyes and it got me a little emotional,” Melluso told ABC. “We went ahead and donated the lobster to them.”
The Larry-savers made plans to ship him to the Maine State Aquarium, which said it would accept him, quarantine him and then decide what to do with him after that. There was a swift response from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
They called on the aquarium to let Larry loose.
“Lobsters are smart, unique individuals who feel pain and suffer in captivity,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement. “PETA is calling on the Maine State Aquarium to let this elderly crustacean live out his golden years in freedom and peace.”
Alas, Larry’s golden years were never to be.
He arrived at the Maine Aquarium … less than alive.
Jeff Nichols, communications director for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, says that there’s always a challenge in shipping a live animal.
“Maine lobster dealers do it all the time … they ship live lobsters all over the world, but it’s something that is part of their business practice and their area of expertise,” he told NPR. “This was a situation where, you know, it was somebody trying to figure it out.”
The first attempt to ship Larry was scuttled when FedEx sent him back. And unfortunately, he spent some time on freshwater ice, Nichols says, which isn’t ideal for a marine animal.
The Florida activists repackaged him, with some coaching from the Maine State Aquarium’s staff, and sent him again, the Portland Press Herald reported on Wednesday:
“Larry was packed in a Styrofoam clamshell with seaweed and frozen gel packs intended to keep him cold. The Styrofoam package was then put in another box, providing extra cushioning and protection from leakage. iRescue did not respond to questions about the shipping cost.
“The packaging method has worked in the past for others who have shipped live lobsters to the aquarium, Nichols said. But when staffers opened the box Wednesday around noon, they found a motionless crustacean and broken gel packs.
“Unsure whether Larry was dead or alive, a staffer touched the lobster’s eye, but found it dry and unresponsive.”
Larry hadn’t made it.
“I think people are now unfortunately starting to try to place blame on someone,” Nichols said. “I think the people who were trying to do this were just kind of, you know, doing their best, but unfortunately it just was a failed attempt.”
The lobster had been handled a lot, and spent a long time out of the water, Nichols said. “It definitely wasn’t an ideal circumstance for sending this lobster alive and having it arrive alive.”
“We’re all disappointed with the situation,” he said.