Marybeth Jeitner saw the huge, brightly-colored lobster sitting in the tank at the Flagler Beach Publix, and it was love at first sight.
“I looked at her and took a couple of pictures, and I fell in love with her instantly,” she said.
But Jeitner plans to save the critter, not eat it — she’s named it Libbie, for liberation — because it is a rare yellow American lobster. The color, in this, case, an orangey goldenrod, is caused by a genetic mutation that occurs in about one in 30 million individuals.
Jeitner and friends Heather Chalmers and Tim Baker adopted the rare crustacean early Tuesday morning to save it from the dinner plate, with the assistance of Publix staff, who held off on selling it and helped prepare an enclosure for the group of friends to keep it in as they figure out how to get it to the cold waters it needs to survive.
“I was amazed when it came in,” said Publix seafood clerk Greg Rogers said. “It’s been very noticed. A lot of people stopped and took pictures.”
Chalmers said she’s never been involved with any animal rescue effort before.
“When I woke up, I had no idea I’d be rescuing a lobster today,” she said.
Still, she said, she helped put together a saltwater aquarium to temporarily house the crustacean until the group can find a permanent home for it.
Jeitner said she has tried calling aquariums in Florida — Marineland, Seaworld, and others. “None of them could take it,” she said. All of those locations have warm-water tanks, and the high temperatures would kill the northern lobster.
Jeitner said the three considered shipping it north to Rhode Island, where Baker’s brother, a Rhode Island resident, would release it into the ocean.
A marine science center in New Hampshire might also be able to take it, she said, but Either trip would be expensive and might be rough for the lobster.
The group is still searching for a location — preferably in Florida — to house the lobster.
For now, they’re keeping it in the saltwater tank, cooled with ice and frozen water bottles.
Jeitner has set up a Facebook page dedicated to the Libbie Lobster rescue effort. To view updates, go to https://www.facebook.com/SaveLibbie.