Face­book friends save crusty Ger­ald

Jeff Mahoney weighs in

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JEFF MAHONEY jma­honey@thes­pec.com 905-526-3306

What is it about him? Tall (or at least long), dark and hand­some (in a crus­tacean kind of way), yes. But some­thing more.

Maybe it’s the way he gazes through the glass — his dreamy com­pound eyes seem to pop for you, maybe be­cause they’re mounted on eye stalks (he’s an arthro­pod, af­ter all). Or maybe it’s his size and the strik­ing brown­ish-red panoply of his body armour.

Ev­ery­one stopped to stare at Ger­ald at the Wa­ter­down Forti­nos. He’s a looker, no ques­tion. But ap­par­ently not the kind you take home to mother, or rather, to smother … in gar­lic but­ter, egg yolk and brandy with a cheesy crust of Gruyère, a la Ther­mi­dor.

Sadly (or maybe not) no one was buy­ing him. (But, wait, there’s a happy end­ing, be­lieve it or not, de­spite the best, or rather worst, ef­forts of Team Eat.)

“This crazy gi­ant lob­ster,” says Becky Bren­nan of Wa­ter­down. “Who was go­ing to buy one that big? He’s go­ing to taste like old leather.”

Don’t ask her to ex­plain. But some­thing about Ger­ald pulled at Becky. For a few weeks there, he was a sen­sa­tion at the Forti­nos. He weighs eight pounds, much larger than your av­er­age lob­ster — usu­ally around a pound and a half to three. There was spec­u­la­tion that Ger­ald might be a hun­dred years old. He had a tank to him­self.

Becky heard about Ger­ald (Forti­nos staff ap­par­ently named him that, though I like to think of him as Claud — get it? clawed? let’s move on) in the gro­cery check­out line. She in­dis­tinctly over­heard the per­son in front of her talk­ing to the cashier about Ger­ald.

“I could tell from their con­ver­sa­tion that Ger­ald must be a lob­ster,” she tells me. She went to have a look. She was smit­ten. “I’m a bleed­ing heart. If I could fix the world with a gi­ant Band-Aid, I would.”

She would’ve bought Ger­ald her­self but he was priced out at $150. They were even talk­ing about Ger­ald on Face­book. “Some­one on Face­book said let’s buy him,” Becky re­calls. “I took it se­ri­ously.” She pledged $12. Oth­ers fol­lowed suit. Soon they had over $100; Forti­nos agreed to drop the price. Ger­ald was saved! Or was he?

In the mean­time, oth­ers on Face­book started mak­ing fun of this ef­fort and were mak­ing jokes about gar­lic but­ter. They started a counter cam­paign to pur­chase Ger­ald for the pur­poses of con­sump­tion.

“I called them Team Eat and us Team Save,” says Becky. “They just think I’m a kook. I guess some peo­ple don’t like my quirk­i­ness.” Team Eat ac­tu­ally out-pledged Team Save. They must have been boil­ing mad or else mad to boil, but Forti­nos had al­ready put a sold sign on Ger­ald, so that was that.

But what to do with him? Becky called all over — oceanog­ra­phy in­sti­tutes, marine bi­ol­ogy fa­cil­i­ties, aquar­i­ums. Fi­nally, Ger­ald got a nib­ble. Ri­p­ley’s Aquar­ium of Canada in Toronto. They agreed to take him. He’s an un­usu­ally large lob­ster.

“Tak­ing in this unique large lob­ster pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to ed­u­cate and in­spire the pub­lic to care for the wa­ters of the world and the species within them,” says Lau­ren Chan, Ri­p­ley’s man­ager of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

He will be in­tro­duced to the aquar­ium’s Canada Wa­ters lob­ster ex­hibit, with oth­ers of his species once his health has been as­sessed by Ri­p­ley’s hus­bandry team. Lau­ren says he’s the big­gest lob­ster the aquar­ium has.

How did Ger­ald get to Ri­p­ley’s? Becky and some friends drove him in her car, as per the aquar­ium’s in­struc­tions, cov­ered in a wet, salted towel — lob­sters, says Becky, can sur­vive for a day out of wa­ter.

At Ri­p­ley’s Aquar­ium, Ger­ald was put in an ac­cli­ma­tion tank. He’s ad­just­ing well. Ri­p­ley’s gave Becky and other Team Save peo­ple 10 free fam­ily passes.

“Some peo­ple are go­ing to think we’re nuts but I saw this gi­ant lob­ster and I felt he was slowly dy­ing,” says Beck. “He wasn’t fit for con­sump­tion.” She feels that the big­ger and older a lob­ster, the less suc­cu­lent and savoury.

As if the story isn’t crazy enough, iron­i­cally Becky has a few ex­oskele­tons in her closet. Not even in her closet. She’s open about it. She loves lob­sters — eat­ing them. But there was just some­thing about Ger­ald, the one that lit­er­ally got away. To live an­other day.

At Wa­ter­down Forti­nos, the mem­ory of Ger­ald still raises a chuckle. When I call and say I’m with The Spec, the woman who an­swers laughs and psy­chi­cally says, “You’re call­ing about a lob­ster.” I get put on to some­one from Forti­nos seafood. “I don’t have a state­ment to make,” says the guy, “other than, I’m just glad he’s found a home. Too much hul­la­baloo.”

Says Becky, “I know I did the right thing.”


Ger­ald, a mas­sive lob­ster, was res­cued from a Forti­nos in Wa­ter­down.

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