- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2006

SCARBOROUGH, Maine (AP) — You don’t have to be a fisherman to catch lobsters anymore.

At a neighborhood store in this Portland suburb — and at restaurants and bars in more than a dozen states — customers can plunk down $2 for a chance to catch their very own lobster using a mechanical claw in an arcade-style game.

The apparatus is a new version of the old-style amusement game where players put in a quarter or two in hopes of grabbing a stuffed animal. But instead of plush toys, the Love Maine Lobster Claw game has a water-filled tank full of lobsters.

When a lobster is caught, the restaurants cook it for free and serve it with side dishes.

“He looks like a keeper,” said Frank Margel of Westbrook, eyeing a mottled-green crustacean at Eight Corners Market before giving the game a try.

It’s easier said than done, however.

Unlike stationary stuffed animals, the lobsters flap their tails, flail their claws and squirm this way and that, making them elusive prey.

“Those lobsters are lively. They’re ready for competition,” Mr. Margel said a minute later — and $2 poorer — after the crustacean slipped away.

Marine Ecological Habitats in Biddeford has been making the Love Maine Lobster game for just over a year and sold a couple of dozen, said Joe Zucchero, the company president.

The Maine-made machines can be found in restaurants and bars in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well as Maine, Mr. Zucchero said. A Florida company, the Lobster Zone Inc., makes a similar machine that it says can be found in more than 20 states.

The game has its critics. Animal-rights activists contend it’s cruel to toss a lobster into a boiling pot of water. And playing with the creatures before sending them to their deaths rubs some people the wrong way.

“Turning animal cruelty into a game is absolutely hideous,” said Karin Robertson of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

A restaurant in Pittsburgh removed its lobster game last week in response to PETA’s campaign against the machines.

Paul Carrozzi, owner of Roland’s Seafood Grill, said he doesn’t agree the machine is inhumane, but removed it after receiving threatening e-mails and calls. “It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

Mr. Zucchero maintains that the machine has a gentle claw that won’t hurt the animals.

“If it did,” he said, “we’d have problems, because then it would be destroying our inventory.”


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