Notable New Books: The Secret Life of Lobsters

The Secret Life of Lobsters – How Fishermen and Scientists are Unraveling the Mysteries of our Favorite Crustacean. By Trevor Corson

The author spent two years working as a sternman aboard a lobsterboat based on Little Cranberry Island, Maine. He immediately became immersed in a world of arthropod intrigue. What was it about lobsters, he would come to ask, that causes such controversy?

Mutual mistrust had caused scientists and fishermen to engage in a decades-long pitched battle for control of the lobster fishery. Insults were slung, editorials written, moratoriums proposed, an entire culture that had depended on this animal for survival for hundreds of years teetered on the brink. Yet at every turn, the life of this apparently simple creature defied understanding. Scientists were accused of lacking real-life knowledge of their subjects, and fishermen were thought to lack the environmental foresight of their fishery to effectively plan for the future.

Meanwhile, no one could explain why, unlike all other fisheries in the world, lobster catch size actually increased each year — such that the Maine lobster fishery remains the largest and most lucrative industry of its kind in the world.

Corson shows us that only when scientists and lobstermen adopt each other’s methods of viewing the world is a workable peace achieved. The author provides fascinating detail, — a blend of popular science and social commentary — on the life of this crustacean to spin a tale that reads like a mystery novel. You’ll never sail past a lobster buoy quite the same way again.

Henry Holt, New York; 275 pages; $24.95.

By Ocean Navigator