Lobster is a steal nowadays, but that steamed tail on your plate could get even cheaper if Darden Restaurants has anything to say about it.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the company behind such national restaurant chains as Red Lobster and Capitol Grille is moving forward with lobster aquaculture. If all goes well, these farm-raised lobster could end up on plates at restaurants around the world in a matter of years.
It would also make lobsters even cheaper and more readily available than they are now. Darden
is already the world's largest buyer of North American lobster and one of
the largest buyers of spiny lobster. This move would mean it wouldn't
have to rely as heavily on the lobster fishing industry, which would
undoubtedly take a hit.
There are complications, however. Lobsters have long been notoriously
hard to farm, especially the North American variety commonly known as
Maine lobster. The sea critters eat ravenously and are very aggressive
toward each other in tight groups. They also take five to seven years
to mature and are highly susceptible to disease.
Spiny lobsters, however, which are native to the waters off the coast of
Florida, are much easier to raise in captivity and take much less time
to mature. Darden hopes to take young "seed lobsters" and transfer them
to the farming environment, where they'll be able to mature.
Raising lobsters from eggs is still a difficult task. It's been done in
laboratory settings but never in a commercial environment. It would be
necessary for this code to be cracked in order for lobster farming to
become a viable option, as removing seed lobsters from beds would
threaten spawn patterns in the long run.
Darden already has farms planned in Brunei and is currently working on a
project in the Turks and Caicos Islands.