Lobster lovers, take note: if you visit Jamaica between today and June 30th, there will not be an ounce of lobster on any menu anywhere on the island.
The close season started officially on April 1st and coincides with the peak breeding period. If you’re lucky enough to arrive before April 21st, you might be able to find some lobster as the government allows businesses to register by March 31st any stocks they might have. That stock can be used until April 21st.
During the close season, it is illegal to catch, buy or sell lobsters. And any lobsters caught unintentionally in fishing traps must be returned to the sea. It is also illegal to be in possession of lobster parts or products, whether they are fresh or frozen. The penalties include 6 months in jail or a fine of J$100,000 (about US$1,000).
The Jamaican lobster is really a large crayfish. (A few weeks ago, I left a comment at A Taste of Travel. They have the same crayfish in Australia that we call lobster here.) It doesn’t have big claws like lobsters from Maine and the meat is a bit firmer. However it is prepared in the same way you would a regular lobster: grilled, steamed, curried, jerked, or used in soups and salads.
Until my neighbor reminded me, I’d totally forgotten about the few pounds I’ve had frozen since last December. Since I didn’t want to run afoul of the law, I decided to fix the lobster for dinner on Sunday, the last day we’re allowed legally to have it in our possession. Here’s how I prepared it.
3 lbs. lobster
4 stalks escallion (spring onions), chopped finely
3 sprigs of thyme
1 small onion, chopped
1 or 2 small tomatoes, diced
1 small Scotch Bonnet pepper (leave whole. Remove seeds and cut into small pieces, if you want more fire)
1 can coconut milk
Salt, pepper to taste
Hold the lobster body firmly with one hand, the tail with the other. Turn the tail until it separates from the body. Take a pair kitchen shears or a sharp knife and cut down the center of the tail. Use your fingers or the knife to pry the meat from the shell.
Remove the vein from the tail. Wash, cut into 1” pieces and set aside.
Sauté chopped onions, shallots, tomatoes and pepper
Add lobster, and salt and pepper to taste
Sauté until the pieces become white
Add coconut milk, whole Scotch Bonnet pepper and thyme
Let cook for 3 minutes or until done
Serve over your favorite vegetables
What foods do you look forward to eating when you travel?