It’s Lobster Time Again in Belize!
It’s that time again to celebrate the opening of lobster season in Belize and show our appreciation for this gastronomic delight.
Yes, all over Belize fishermen are out catching, cooks are preparing and diners are consuming the yummy bugs, as Caribbean Spiny Lobsters are known locally. And to celebrate the opening of the lobster season, several Lobsterfests are held around Belize, providing a rare opportunity to not only gorge on these delicious crustaceans, but participate in great community events as well.
Here’s a list of the main fests, followed by some facts about rock lobsters that 80s band the B 52s for some reason left out of their tribute song.
San Pedro Lobsterfest
This is the big one out on Ambergris Caye, with many establishments providing free live music and discounts on drinks and lobster. It’s a great party atmosphere with costumes, dancing and more.
This is the birthplace of the Belizean Lobsterfest, and the little island is a Mecca for all things lobster, with the Miss Lobsterfest pageant a highlight. Boat rides out to the caye are usually discounted and the locals go all out to make this one a hit.
Belize City’s Lobsterfest
is usually held the second week of July at Bird’s Isle on the end of Albert Street. While less touristy and more geared to locals, this is still a great experience and place to get a feed of bugs in various incarnations.
This little fishing village, where the fishing cooperative is a big part of the community, puts on what is arguably one of the best Lobsterfests in Belize. In addition to the variety of local restaurants lining what the Guinness Book of Records once called the longest sidewalk in the world, there are various activities as well as those lovely sandy beaches and trips out to the cayes.
No matter which ones you hit, you’ll enjoy these uniquely Belizean parties with their raffles, contests, music, dancing and, above all, as much lobster as you can handle.
Most Lobsterfests have their own Facebook pages or other web presence, so hit the search engines for more details as well as times and transport options.
And to help you better enjoy lobster season, here are;
A few lobster facts:
Scientifically known as Panulirus argus, the species found in Belizean waters is related to, but different to the Maine lobster many people are familiar with, with the Caribbean cousin lacking the large claws characterising the big lobsters found in northern waters.
This species has small spines all over its body and two long, thick spiny antennae. The head and legs are bluish while the body and tail are brown with large white spots. While the spines offer some protection, the lobster is still in huge demand not only by humans, but octopus, eels, sharks, rays, turtles and large fish such as groupers.
For their part, lobsters are detritivores as well as omnivores, enjoying small crabs, chiltons, snails and clams.
OK, we’re not going to leave you scratching your heads about detritivores. They’re creatures that feed on dead or decaying organisms, thus giving our spiny friends the distinction of being members of the reef’s clean-up crew.
Caribbean Spiny Lobsters grow to a maximum of about one and half feet (45 cm) and live to around 20 years – if they can avoid the dinner plate.
You can find the Caribbean spiny lobster on coral reefs throughout the Caribbean, and its range runs north to the Carolina States in the USA all the way south to Brazil.
A few interesting notes about rock lobsters:
- Caribbean spiny lobsters use magnetic fields to navigate, much like sea turtles, sharks and rays.
- At times mass migrations of lobsters, impressive spectacles with as many as 50 individuals moving in single file formation, can be seen along the seabed as sea temperatures drop in Autumn, when the bugs leave their caves and move towards deeper, warmer water.
- Lobsters reproduce after the male leaves a sperm sac that the female holds under her tail until her eggs are ready to be fertilised. An 8 cm female may carry up to 230,000 eggs, while a 40 cm female may carry up to 2.6 million, enough to keep a few Red Lobsters in business.
If you’re snorkelling along the Belize Great Barrier Reef, you can often see the antennae, or whips, of lobster waving out from holes and crevices in the coral, where they hide during the day before going out to forage at night.
The traditional Belizean method of catching them involves paddling along the reef in a dory (Belizean dugout canoe) with a hookstick – a stick a couple of feet long with a big barbless hook lashed to the end. When the lobster hunter see a set of whips, he quietly dives down, slides the stick horizontally under the belly of the bug, twists it so that the hook flips up, jerks it into the prey and hauls it out, swimming up to the dory to deposit the catch, which is then cleaned and put on ice at the end of the day.
Right now Caribbean lobsters are not a threatened species, but they are on the watch list. Fortunately, Belizean fisher folk, for the most part, have long recognised the importance of sustainable fishing when it comes to the precious bug population, and there are big penalties in place for catching and selling undersized juveniles. So you can consume with gusto and enjoy guilt free.
Which, especially during June and July, is the thing to do in Belize. And now, with direct flights from nearby Maya Flats, getting to San Pedro, the cayes, Placencia and Belize City is a short hop, skip and jump away from Chaa Creek. Farm fresh organic veggies and tropical fruits one day, lobsters the next – what more could you ask for?