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article imageOp-Ed: Rare blue lobster found in river in northern Chile Special

By Igor I. Solar     Jun 25, 2013 in Environment
Ovalle - A crayfish fisherman found an extraordinary blue lobster in the Limarí River, in north-central Chile. The strange crustacean has caused surprise and prompted various theories about its atypical appearance and possible origin.
José Castillo, 47, a worker of the municipality in the city of Ovalle, spends his free time during the weekends catching crayfish (freshwater crustaceans) in the Limarí River, in the province of Coquimbo, Chile. José has been doing this activity for many years in order to supplement his income.
The northern river crayfish (Cryphiops caementarius) is a species endemic to Chile and Peru that has been captured in several watersheds in the northern region of the country since ancient times, even from pre-Columbian times. Over-fishing and the use of river water in agricultural and mining activities has brought the species to a threatened status of conservation. For a long time, there was a total ban on the capture of the resource. In recent years the ban has been reduced to the period December 1 to April 30.
Currently, the extraction activity is a means of livelihood for about 2,000 people. The crayfish is relatively small, measuring about 10 cm long and is naturally dark greenish-brown. After a few minutes in boiling water, the color of the shell takes the typical red color of cooked crustaceans.
Last weekend, Castillo was diving in the Limarí River when he observed a large blue lobster. With some effort he managed to follow and capture the strange crustacean. According to LimariNoticias (in Spanish), he is currently holding the animal in his house and has decided to keep it as a pet. Crustaceans have low oxygen demand and are able to live on very little water and even out of the water for short periods.
The strange characteristics of the animal, especially its deep blue-purple color and large size, have attracted the attention and aroused considerable curiosity among the locals. Some contend that this is an unusual phenomenon caused by a rare genetic mutation.
The Australian Blue Lobster (Cherax tenuimanus) is considered apt for commercial farming in Chile.
The Australian Blue Lobster (Cherax tenuimanus) is considered apt for commercial farming in Chile.
The explanation however, is much simpler. The crustacean caught by José Castillo is a specimen of the so-called Australian Blue Lobster (Cherax tenuimanus, a.k.a. “Marron”). The species is endemic to the Margaret River in southwestern Australia. In fact, it is not a lobster but it is also a crayfish or freshwater crustacean. C. tenuimanus is a species critically endangered mainly due to the introduction in its natural environment of another species of crayfish (Cherax cainii). The problem is caused by competition and hybridization with C. cainii.
The Australian Blue Lobster, one of the largest freshwater crayfish in the world, is considered a culinary delicacy. Australia and several countries are making efforts to promote its commercial farming. Chile is one of those countries. Since the early 90s, Chilean researchers have conducted farming projects of two Cherax species (C. tenuimanus and the Australian Red Claw Crayfish C. quadricarinatus). These projects have achieved modest results. This reporter knows about the ongoing projects and is familiar with the studies on breeding and rearing of these species that are being carried out in Chile. In my opinion, the blue lobster found in the Limarí River belongs to the species C. teniumanus and it escaped from a culture site or was deliberately released into the watercourse.
The Australian Blue Lobster (Cherax tenuimanus) is considered apt for commercial farming in Chile.
The Australian Blue Lobster (Cherax tenuimanus) is considered apt for commercial farming in Chile.
The presence of this crustacean, which could be one of many currently present in this water course, completely outside its normal range of distribution, is a serious threat to the survival of the native crayfish species in the rivers of northern Chile. José Castillo's find is alarming and calls for immediate action by Chilean environmental authorities to investigate, control and eradicate the presence of this exotic species in a natural environment, and ensure that any study or attempt to develop its commercial production remains confined to culture facilities to ensure that the animals do not escape or spread into the environment where they can threaten the natural balance of the ecosystem.
Related article:
Rare orange lobster caught last week in the Bay of Fundy
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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