Jubilee: A Rare Phenomenon that Delights Seafood Lovers

This oceanic phenomenon occurs in rare instances around the world. However, it happens in only two places regularly: Tokyo Bay and the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, Alabama. When it occurs, seafood lovers scramble to gather all the flounder and blue crab they can carry. The phenomenon is known as a jubilee.

How a Jubilee Occurs

A jubilee occurs only in the summer, in very specific conditions:

  • The air temperature is very warm, which in turn, warms up the water.
  • The few days prior to a jubilee are cloudy, so sunlight doesn’t reach plants in the water. Therefore, the plants can’t produce oxygen.
  • The waters are very calm.
  • A light breeze blows from the east, pushing surface water toward the western shore.

Bottom-dwelling sea creatures are deprived of oxygen and slow down. So, as the water pushes to the west, these creatures are left in very shallow water on the eastern shore, sometimes right on the beach.

How to Catch the Bottom Dwellers

Most people don’t bother to go after the shrimp during a jubilee because it’s too labor intensive. Instead, they go for blue crab and flounder. They use nets to catch the crab, and stab the flounder with a gig, a spear with multiple barbed points.

How Often and Where Does a Jubilee Occur?

Jubilees occur multiple times in a season. It could be all along the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, or only on a short stretch of the shore. Since it happens before dawn, there could be a jubilee that no one notices.

When they do occur—and someone notices—word travels fast. People rush out to the shore to get their fill. It wouldn’t surprise me if, on jubilee days, a lot of people show up late to work. After all, although you can put the flounder on ice to process later, you must prepare crab right away.

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