Three hundred lobsters were liberated thanks to an anonymous group that payed for their release in Maine.
The episode unfolded in the midst of a lobster shortage and record prices when a group of 10 young people arrived at New Meadows Lobster Pound talking about the need for "God's creatures" to be free, owner Pete McAleney told the Portland Press Herald in its Wednesday editions.
Freedom, however, came at a cost.
The group paid nearly $3,400 (EUR2,532) in cash to buy all of his one-claw lobsters _ known as "culls" at a cost of $11.25 (EUR8.38) each, McAleney said. Culls are cheaper than lobsters with two claws.
"We told them they're going to get caught again and they said, 'That's OK. We just want them to have a chance before they get caught again,"' McAleney said.
Another Portland lobster dealer, Harbor Fish Market, reported selling lobsters to a group with plans to release them. Nick Alfiero, whose family owns the fish market, said the buyers were local customers and otherwise declined to discuss the transaction.
McAleney gave the group some tips on releasing the lobsters. He suggested that the group drop off the lobsters at a site in Portland, where the water is shallow and warmer. "They'll walk to the open ocean," he said.
Bob Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute, located at the University of Maine, said McAleney gave the group good advice. He also said lobsters with one claw seem to do fine in the wild and, in time, grow the second one back.
The release of the lobsters coincided with a shortage caused by bad weather and cold water temperatures. Retail prices were hovering around $15 a pound (EUR25 per kilo).
The identities of the lobster liberators remained a mystery. One animal-welfare group that claims no credit is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
"We never encourage people to give money to the lobster industry, even if it's for the laudable goal of releasing them," said Bruce Friedrich, PETA's national vice president.