Autumn’s lobster premiere is like an early Christmas Eve on the Swedish west coast. Join us in the hunt of the sea’s black gold in Bohuslän.
On the first Monday after September 20, it’s lobster premiere in Bohuslän on the Swedish west coast. This is a genuine premiere because it is a statutory one – unlike the crayfish or surströmming (“sour herring”) premieres that are now only based on traditions. The last day of the season is April 30th. After the close of lobster season, lobsters may not be fished or held in any form.
The beautiful Swedish west coast
The Swedish west coast is beautiful in the autumn, painted with a palette of orange, red and yellow trees, blustery clouds and blue skies. Bohuslän has received considerable attention in recent years in international media. Among other things, Bohuslän has been named the world’s seventh most beautiful wilderness area by CNN. The region has also been written about in The Times, Lonely Planet Traveller Magazine, and National Geographic Traveller.
Related: Shellfish Safaris in West Sweden
The reddish-brown boathouses and shiny slopes of naked rocks combined with seagulls’ screams and crashing waves create a magical atmosphere – not to forget, the intoxicating smell of one-year-old fermented mackerel – regarded as a recipe for success to attract the ocean’s black gold into their pots.
The fishermen are ready to start in the early hours. All lobster fishermen have their ideas about lobster pot sizes, fishing spots and bait. Wherever you go, there is endless discussion about bait tips, water temperature and fishing spots. In particular, tension is linked to weather conditions.
Perfect conditions for rich and tasty lobster stocks
Bohuslän is mostly ice-free coastline. Here salty Atlantic water comes in with the Gulf Stream. The clean and warm water creates perfect conditions for rich and tasty lobster stocks – it’s one of the reasons that Bohuslän has become a real lobster paradise. Eating your own catch at the end of the day paired with a special release of lobster beer from the Grebbestadsbryggeri brewery, you feel you’re in paradise.
Lobsters found along the Swedish coast are known as Black Gold due to their black color in the wild.
Grönemad is an idyllic row of piers and boathouses two kilometers north of Grebbestad center. Almost half of the lobster caught in Sweden is hauled up by this archipelago. The same applies to 70 per cent of caged crayfish and as much as 90 per cent of all oysters.
Related: Scandinavian Shellfish & Molluscs
A thriving livelihood for lobster and shellfish
The seabed In this part of Bohuslän is hard and rich in hiding places making it a thriving livelihood for lobster and shellfish. Along large parts of the Swedish coast, sediments from agriculture have been washed out into the sea and made the seabed soft, but it is not the case in this area.
According to traditional recipes lobsters are often cooked in dark beer to produce a savory flavor and lift the flavors of the seafood. Lobsters are luxury goods. At Gothenburg’s fish auction the first lobsters are usually sold for approximately SEK 7,000/kg during the first week of the season. In 2010 the first lobsters came in at 7,300 kronor per kilogram. 2012 was a peak of 102,000 SEK!
The Swedish Lobster Academy
The locals are so serious about lobster that in 1996 they established the Swedish Lobster Academy in Hunnebostrand. The academy promotes knowledge about lobsters’ living conditions, distribution, movement patterns, and reproduction. Members focus on sustainability and they collaborate with fishermen to address issues such as trapping and farming opportunities. The academy promotes quality assurance of lobster with respect to size, breed, and appearance.
The lobster premiere draws visitors from all over Europe. The first lobster safaris, on the other hand, do not start until the pots have been on the seabed for at least 24 hours. From September to December, many fishermen offer lobster safaris for tourists. Professional fishermen are allowed to release maximum 40 lobster pots only.
However, the vast majority of lobster pots you see in the Bohuslän archipelago belong to private individuals, and not just local residents. People throw their boats at trailers and pilgrimages from all over Sweden to hunt for the black gold. Commercial fishermen make up only a small part.
Lobster fishing in perspective
To give some perspective, remember that people have been fishing this coast since the Stone Age. Fishing has been a source of livelihood for generations. The sea and seafood have a culture all its own. To protect the species fishermen today are not allowed to catch small lobsters that have not yet reproduced itself. There is a minimum size to comply with: 8 centimeters measured from the rear edge of the eye cavity to the rear edge of the back. If the lobster is smaller, it has to be released back into the sea immediately. This also applies to females with external roe, according to the Swedish Board of Fisheries regulations.
Since 2011 hobby fishermen are no longer allowed to sell lobsters.
There have been many positive measures to safeguard and improve the lobster stock in Sweden, but it is still important to fish them with moderation.
A Swedish lobster is different from an American; it has clearer colors and larger claws. The water in northern Europe is colder, so the fish and shellfish grow less quickly, and therefore develop a richer flavor and better texture. The lobster season is based on protection of the species—making sure it is able to reproduce before being caught—and the time of year when it tastes the best.
Hunting The Black Gold in Sweden, written by Tor Kjolberg