OdySea Aquarium

Erika Shen, an animal care specialist at OdySea Aquarium is caring for a rare orange lobster  found by kitchen staff at the Fashion Square restaurant Nobu.

It had been a normal day for the kitchen staff at Nobu, an upscale Japanese restaurant located in the Scottsdale Fashion Square.

Three hours before opening one day late last month, the Nobu staff had just begun unloading a shipment of seafood. 

While sifting through a sea of brownish-red lobsters, the staff stumbled upon something they had never seen before: An orange lobster.

The staff almost immediately took a step back from their regular operations to gawk at the crustacean’s rare color.

Nobu Executive Chef Carl Murray moved the rare lobster into a container and stored it in the restaurant’s walk-in cooler until he could figure out what to do.

The next day, Murray called OdySea. 

“I said ‘let’s call the aquarium’ out of curiosity and the aquarium was gracious enough to come by and pick it up,” he said. “We had heard stories about other restaurants saving a lobster so we figured we would go ahead and see what we had. Only after the fact, we learned it was a pretty special lobster.” 

Upon hearing the news about Nobu’s “catch,” Erika Shen, an OdySea animal care specialist, grabbed a cooler and bubbler and rushed to the restaurant. 

Staff swaddled it in a moist towel and Shen headed back to work. 

By the time she arrived, the news had spread around the aquarium and a crowd of employees congregated around her. 

Unsure of how long the creature had been out of water, Shen began the acclimation process to get it ready for closer observation. 

“We were initially blown away by the fact that it was bright orange, but we did fear that it was out of water,” she said. 

Shen panicked when she realized acclimation could take up to 90 minutes, so she did some research and discovered these lobsters can be out of water for up to 48-hours. 

Shen and other staff also discovered that only about one in every 30 million Maine lobsters are orange.

They also found out that the lobster could reach a century in age, grow to over three feet in length and gain up to 40 pounds. 

Once the lobster was acclimated to the water, the staff did more observations and decided it is female. 

“We’ve been having a lot of fun getting to know this lobster and she’s very personable,” Shen said. 

The lobster is currently in her own holding system and the staff at OdySea is in the process of determining the schematics for a tank to display it. 

“Right now, we’re still in the process of determining the best environment for her,” said Shen. “The systems that we currently have are geographically different and the animals that we have are not ones that she would normally be found with.” 

Not only was this lobster spared from becoming a meal at Nobu, but Shen also believes that it has a better chance at living a long life in captivity as opposed to living in the ocean.

“Her orange coloration is so vibrant that she would probably be at much more risk to predators in her native environment,” she said. “Her normal friends are a brownish red color and their native environment is a rock substrate that they can burrow, hide and match the coloration.” 

Even though this lobster has a rare color, it has also given OdySea Aquarium a unique opportunity to educate guests about the varied species of lobsters that surround North America.

The only lobsters it has on exhibit are from California. 

“We are pretty focused on being able to educate on the differences between the lobsters and the types there are on the different coasts,” Shen said. “So, she has really given us an awesome opportunity to do that.” 

As someone whose job is to serve crustaceans to diners, Murray admits it is a bit ironic that he helped save the creature rather than boil it.

“It was a good heartwarming story for all of us, especially with all of the challenges restaurants have faced during the pandemic,” he said. “I think we all needed a feel-good story.”