For those who have always wanted to touch a lobster, Shediac, N.B., might be an ideal destination.
The Homarus Centre opened its doors Sunday, offering an immersive experience into the world of the Northumberland Strait marine ecosystem.
Pierre Dupuis, the centre's director, said the opening was the first step.
"We finally made it," he said. "It's a bit of a relief now knowing that that day has come and it's going smooth."
Visitors will learn about lobster from beginning right up to the plate, said Dupuis.
The centre is owned by the Maritime Fishermen's Union and used to occupy a small spot on the Pointe-du-Chêne wharf.
"We are the science branch of the Maritime Fishermen Union and a lot of it revolves around the fishermen [and] what they do trying to make sure that the species are sustainable for the future ahead," Dupuis said.
A tank at the centre allows visitors to reach in and touch a lobster.
Dupuis said all of the lobsters are banded except for the smallest. The touch tank is not part of a guided tour where people learn about the lifecycle of a lobster.
There's also a boutique that showcases work from local artists, said Dupuis.
Shediac Mayor Roger Caissie said the centre is a great addition to the area.
"The Homarus Centre is going to create another reason or another bonus in terms of visiting Shediac," he said.
Caissie said the Homarus building created an opportunity for the town to relocate its visitor information centre.
Before the pandemic, Caissie said the town would get around 600 tour buses per year to see its giant lobster statue. But he thinks the centre will create an incentive to stay longer.
"This will generate some economic spinoff for local businesses here — restaurants, hospitality, that sort of thing," said Caissie.
Shediac is known for its lobster fishing industry and is widely considered the lobster capital of the world.
Dupuis said many people who arrive in Shediac think they know a lot about lobsters, but he said they can always learn something new.
"Even some of the fishermen come in and they think they know a lot. But when they go through the biology and everything's explained, they're like, 'I did not know that.'"
Dupuis said the centre doesn't only focus on educating about the species, but also about the ecosystem and sustainability.
The Shediac Lobster Festival also happened in early July, but Dupuis said the timing of the centre's opening is a coincidence.
He said they partner with the festival every year and this year, they released 10,000 lobster larvae into the water on the closing day of the festival.
"It basically represents the lobsters that were sold during the festival that people ate," said Dupuis. "We put it back in the water."