The European Lobster (Homarus gammarus), is a large European clawed crustacean. The natural range of the European Lobster is the eastern Atlantic Ocean from Lofoten Islands in northwestern Norway to the Azores and Morocco. It is also found in the Mediterranean Sea west of Crete and in northwestern parts of the Black Sea. It is not found in the Baltic Sea. It is rarely found deeper than 165 feet, but can be found anywhere from the low tide mark to 500 feet, on hard substrates made of rock or mud.
It is difficult to distinguish from the American lobster (Homarus americanus). The best distinction is the geographical location, with the European lobster in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and the American lobster in the western Atlantic, and by the lack of teeth on the underside of the rostrum of a European lobster. An easier distinction is that U.S. lobsters are brown when uncooked and European ones are blue. Both are red when cooked.
The European lobster is slightly smaller on average than the closely-related American lobster, with a maximum recorded length of 49.6 inches, and weights of up to nearly 42 pounds. However, such giants are rarely seen, and lengths of 9 to 20 inches with weights of around 1.5 pounds are typical.
The European Lobster is solitary, nocturnal and territorial. It lives in holes or crevices in the sea floor during the day. In the summer lobsters seek mates and after mating the female carries the eggs for around eleven months. After hatching, the larvae are released and spend approximately 2 to 3 weeks in the water column. They then settle out of the water column and burrow into seabed where they spend approximately two years. Once they reach a length of around 0.60 inches, they leave the seabed and seek out crevices in rocky substrate.
The diet of the adult European lobster comprises mostly sea-bottom invertebrates such as crabs, mollusks, sea urchins, polychaete worms and starfish, but may also include fish and plants. When molting, lobsters eat a greater proportion of sea urchins and starfish, as a source of calcium. Feeding is reduced in the winter because of the slower metabolic rate brought on by the lower sea temperatures.
The European lobster is fished throughout its natural range, but on a smaller scale than the American lobster, although it is considered by connoisseurs to have a finer texture and flavor. Most of the fishery is carried out with lobster pots, baited with oily fish such as scad, or with pieces of octopus or cuttlefish. Although attempts have been made to run lobster farms, they proved to be unfeasible because of the lobsters’ aggressively territorial habits.