On Thanksgiving everyone thinks of turkey and then the December holiday table usually revolves around beef or ham (or another turkey!), but what about a very local sea creature that is delicious and in abundance this time of year? The Newport Lobster Shack, a non-profit cooperative built in 2009 by the Fishermen of Newport Association, asks that you consider the lobster for your holiday feasts.
“Lobstering is a more than just a summer fishery and lots of people don’t know that,” says David Spencer, manager of the Newport Lobster Shack. “We have lots of fresh lobsters coming into the shack from Thanksgiving all the way to New Years! But people aren’t thinking about lobster in November.”
Though lobstering is a year-round industry, there are peak times determined by the lobsters themselves. Lobsters molt, or shed their hard shells as they outgrow them, twice a year. To gain the nutrients it needs to harden its new shell, a lobster eats much of the old shell and anything else it can find, including bait. These bi-annual eating sprees happen in late June and mid-November, filling the tanks at the Newport Lobster Shack to bursting just in time for Thanksgiving and the December holidays.
The Shack, explains Spencer, is on the commercial pier at the end of Long Wharf. On any given day it can be filled with up to 1,200 pounds of fresh lobster. There are approximately twenty-five fishermen who dock there and contribute their catch daily until the tanks are full, creating a space where the public can buy “off the boat.” According to the Shack, their lobsters are not subject to retailer mark-up, making them consistently less per pound than elsewhere. The Shack also claims that the average length of time that their fresh-caught lobsters are out of the ocean before being purchased is about 48 hours, compared to weeks at a supermarket.
Spencer and his peers hope that consumers interested in eating local also remember that in the Ocean State local means seafood. For Newport’s fishing fleet to survive, fresh caught items like lobster need to be on plates year-round. Spencer added, “Lobsters were served at the first Thanksgiving.”
The Newport Lobster Shack is open the day before Thanksgiving from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The regular business hours are Thursdays & Fridays from 1 – 5 p.m., Saturdays & Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Thanksgiving). Updated information, including any extended holiday hours, can be found on their Facebook page. David Spencer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 401-465-9669.