Animals, Environment, News

North American Lobsters Invading British Waters

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Lobster dinner. Image: Benson Kua
Lobster dinner. Image: Benson Kua

Some unwelcome visitors from North America have been turning up in the waters off the coast of Great Britain.

North American lobsters have been found in lobster traps in the North Sea (between Great Britain and Scandinavia), far from their native habitat. The lobsters usually live along the eastern coast of Canada and the United States.

It is very unlikely that the lobsters could have made the 5,600-kilometre journey on their own. They were probably imported to Britain and then either escaped from holding tanks or were deliberately dumped into the ocean.

Some of the lobsters that were caught had elastic bands holding their claws shut, like lobsters that are kept in tanks in stores or restaurants.

Many may have been “set free” from cruise ships passing through the area. Sometimes passengers order a live lobster from a tank in the dining room and then ask the waiter to throw it overboard instead of cooking it.

According to official records, 26 North American lobsters have been caught in waters off Great Britain since 1988. However, marine biologists believe many more have been found but not reported.

It is illegal to release North American lobsters (or any non-native species) into British waters.

If North American lobsters (Homarus americanus) become established in European waters, it would be bad for the local European species (Homarus gammarus).

The two species live in the same type of habitat and eat the same type of food. But North American lobsters are larger, stronger and more aggressive than European lobsters, and they breed more quickly.

As a result, they could take food and space away from the local species, and from other types of shellfish that live in the same habitat.

The invasive lobsters may also carry diseases that could harm the local lobsters.

If the two species interbreed, it would change the genetic makeup of the European species and would likely reduce the population.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Kathleen Tilly

Writing Prompt
The article explains that one reason why North American lobsters may be in British waters is because some have been “set free” by passengers on cruise ships.

Imagine the journey of one lobster from North American to British waters. Tell the story of this lobster’s journey in the form of a comic strip, a short graphic novel, a poem or a short story. Use your imagination to explain how the lobster was moved, who it met along the way and any adventures it encountered.

Reading Prompt: Text Features
The first paragraph of newspaper articles are purposely designed to capture a reader’s attention and convince them to read more.

The first paragraph of this article is: “Some unwelcome visitors from North America have been turning up in the waters off the coast of Great Britain.”

How does this paragraph capture your attention? Did it make you want to read more? What did the journalist do to peak your interest?

Junior
Identify a variety of text features and explain how they help readers understand texts (OME, Reading: 2.3).

Intermediate
Identify a variety of text features and explain how they help communicate meaning (OME, Reading: 2.3).

Language Feature: Scientific Names
The scientific names of plants and animals are often printed in italics. These names used by scientists often come from Latin or Greek. For example, the scientific name for a North American lobster is Homarus americanus and the scientific name for a European lobster is Homarus gammarus.

What are the scientific names for the following:
1. humans
2. cats
3. dandelions
4. maple trees
5. goldfish