Of all the things with which Maine is synonymous, none enjoys more worldwide acclaim than Maine lobster.
Arguably its most famous export, the crustacean’s cultural and economic value to the state led to a formal request by Maine Senator Angus King to the Unicode Consortium, the group that approves and makes emojis, to create a digital image for the lobster in recognition of its iconic status. As his submission noted, there is an emoji for the crab but not for the seafood that employs thousands of Mainers, contributing more than $1 billion to the state’s economy each year.
Now the group has agreed to add the emoji to its extensive image library, a move that Senator King hailed as “great news,” thanking Unicode “for recognizing the impact of this critical crustacean, in Maine and across the country.” Lobster lovers will be able to use the new emoji when it is released this summer, according to a Unicode announcement.
The news will no doubt also delight the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC), which was founded in 2013 and is funded by Maine lobster harvesters, dealers and processors to grow demand, both for whole live lobster and a variety of value-added products. The MLMC supports that objective by promoting the core values of the Maine lobster industry, which are sustainability and traceability that is deeply rooted in tradition.
Maine is the world’s largest lobster fishery, landing 130 million pounds of the delicacy every year. Yet despite its large annual haul, sustainability is vital and The Gulf of Maine lobster fishery achieved the Marine Stewardship Council certification in 2013, allowing Maine lobster to certify its long-standing practices. The industry has been self regulating for more than 150 years.
Hard or soft shell
Although a crustacean is defined as an animal with a hard outer shell, there are, in fact, two types of Maine lobster – hard and soft shell – the difference determined by the time of the year at which they are harvested.
Lobsters all start out with a soft shell, which hardens over several days.
Even after this transformation a lobster’s muscles continue to grow and when the shell is too small to allow further muscle growth, it sheds, leaving a larger, soft shell in its place. This is the time – between July and late September – when the soft shell lobsters migrate inshore, the harvest is at its peak and prices tend to be lower.
From September through November, the shells harden again, as do prices, though price alone is not the determining factor when Mainers discuss the merits of soft or hard shell.
Some prefer the hard shell’s firm, dense texture, and briny taste, even though cracking the hard shells and extracting the meat is more work., while others prefer the easier-to-access sweet and tender texture of a soft shell.
Whichever your preference, there are few delicacies to compare with a simply broiled lobster, served hot with drawn butter or cold with mayonnaise. For other suggestions on how to prepare and serve Maine’s most famous delicacy visit