A rare cotton candy-colored lobster that might otherwise have ended up on a dinner plate at a Portland restaurant has been returned to the ocean.

Fred Eliot, an executive chef at Scales Restaurant on Commercial Street, said the female lobster, which customers and staff nicknamed Blue Betty, was set free by Scales co-chef, Travis Olson.

Olson and his wife, Anne, of South Portland, used their home-built rowboat Tuesday to row to Cow Island in Casco Bay, where they placed the 1.5-pound lobster back in the ocean.

“It was just too interesting to cook it,” Eliot said. “It was almost translucent.”

The lobster arrived at Scales as part of a shipment to the restaurant Friday.

Scales keeps lobsters in a dining room tank that customers enjoy looking at, but Blue Betty apparently didn’t like the attention. Eliot said the lobster was unusually aggressive, lunging at fingers close to the tank.

“She was pretty feisty,” Eliot said. “Some people started calling her bubbles because she was foaming at the mouth.”

Both Eliot and Olson recognized how rare cotton candy lobsters are and agreed that Blue Betty should not be cooked. The restaurant serves steamed and roasted lobster as well as lobster rolls and lobster stew.

It isn’t clear how rare the cotton candy color pattern is. A Canadian fisherman Robinson Russell, 38, caught a similar lobster off Grand Manan Island in December. That one, a 2-pounder named “Lucky,” was donated to an aquarium in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick.

According to the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, most lobsters caught in American waters are dark, bluish green to greenish brown. They are generally redder on the body and claws, and greener on their legs. Blue lobsters are uncommon – only one in two million. The blue color is caused by a genetic defect.

The odds of a yellow lobster are one in 30 million and split-colored lobsters (half orange and half brown) are even rarer at one in 50 million, the institute says. It didn’t list the odds of a lobster having the cotton candy color pattern.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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