An extremely rare slipper lobster was caught off the coast of the Aran Islands recently by the 17m ‘Connacht Ranger’ (G 47) and landed into Ros a Mhil, reports Pauric Gallagher.

Turlough Smith (FEAS) of the Marine Institute identified the specimen and contacted Galway Atlantaquaria where it is currently being looked after.

According to the aquarium, this is the first recorded landing of this species this far into the Atlantic north! The last time this species was discovered so far from its original habitat was in 2011 by a Cornish fisherman, east of Falmouth England, and in 2007 a slipper lobster was caught off the coast of Dunmore East by fisherman Martyn Simpson in one of his lobster pots while fishing on his boat the Chrysalis.

The slipper lobster (Scyllarus arctus) is distributed throughout the Mediterranean. It has a lengthy pelagic larval phase which could aid its dispersal and is found bottom-dwelling on the continental shelf, eating food like oysters and molluscs. They look a bit like a compressed lobster with shrimp-like pincers and a carapace probably as wide as a lobster but less than half its length.

Speaking of the find, Connacht Ranger’s skipper John Connelly, from Kilronan on Inis Mor, noted his nieces and nephews ‘were very excited about the slipper lobster, and named it Treain, which is an old Irish word for hardy and brave, and usually associated with warriors! The fact it was so small, came so far north, and survived being towed up in a big net full of spurdogs, stones and prawns does make the name seem pretty apt’.

After its arrival at Galway Atlantaquaria, the slipper lobster was placed into quarantine, and assigned an aquarist responsibility for its care. After a week of isolation and intensive screening the slipper lobster was introduced into the aquarium and is progressing well.

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