Fact Check

Was a Rare Purple Lobster Caught in Maine?

A photograph prompted coverage by several news outlets.

Published Oct. 30, 2019

Image: Keith Potter (Keith Potter)
Image: Keith Potter
A photograph shows a purple lobster caught in Maine.

In late October 2019, a number of local news outlets reported on an extremely rare, one-in-a-million purple lobster that was caught in Maine. In an article that has since been deleted, Maine news outlet WMTW reported:

Maine lobsterman catches extremely rare purple lobster

A Maine lobsterman said he was shocked when he netted a rare purple lobster last week.

Keith Potter netted the purple lobster on Tuesday off the coast of Winter Harbor.

These are not genuine photographs of a purple lobster.

These digitally manipulated images appear to have first been shared to the private Facebook group All Things Lobstering and show a user named Keith Potter. While these pictures were originally shared in jest, they eventually escaped the confines of this Facebook group, were mistaken for real, and ended up on the pages of several local news outlets.

Potter took to Facebook on Oct. 28 to confess that the "purple lobster" in these images was created with Photoshop:

Stop messaging me about that fake purple lobster it was a joke I posted in a closed group and someone took it and shared it, if you read the comments you can tell it was a joke ??‍♂️ and if you're butthurt over a photoshopped lobster please get a life ??

We took a closer look at these pictures and can understand how people were fooled. We don't see any obvious errors that would give them away as fake. However, a "purple lobster" of this size off the coast of Maine wouldn't just be a rare catch. It would practically be a historic one.

The Maine lobster (Homarus Americanus) is typically a mottled brown color but can also be found in a several colorful variations. Maine Lobsterman's Community Alliance reports that blue, calico, orange, and even white Maine lobsters have been documented:

While Professor Robert Steneck, a marine biologist at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center, said that a purple-colored lobster was technically possible, we have yet to encounter any genuine photographs or news reports about such a catch off the coast of Maine.  

Here's a video with more detail about lobster color variations:

While the large Maine lobster may not frequently (or ever) be seen in the color purple, a smaller genus of lobster called the reef lobster (Enoplometopus) that lives in the warm waters of the Caribbean can be seen in a wide variety of bright colors. Here's a photograph of a purple reef lobster:

Got a beautiful purple reef lobster!


Smithsonian.   "A Rainbow of Colorful Lobsters."     Retrieved 30 October 2019.

Maine Lobstermen's Community Alliance.   "Lobster 101: Color."     Retrieved 30 October 2019.

WMTW.   "Maine Lobsterman Catches Extremely Rare Purple Lobster."     28 October 2019.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.