Think youre stressed? ...pity the poor lobster

Eric McCarthy
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ALBERTON - A hungry lobster crawls through a circular hole in search of a free meal. Without warning, the lunch, its container and hungry lobster are hoisted up through the water column and into a fishing boat.
Fishing season is a stressful time for lobsters. But Melanie Burton, a lead field technician at the Atlantic Veterinary College's Lobster Science Centre, says stress levels can be reduced through proper handling.

Melanie Burton and Jean Lavallee look over gear piled and ready for the spring lobster fishery. Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer

ALBERTON - A hungry lobster crawls through a circular hole in search of a free meal. Without warning, the lunch, its container and hungry lobster are hoisted up through the water column and into a fishing boat.
Fishing season is a stressful time for lobsters. But Melanie Burton, a lead field technician at the Atlantic Veterinary College's Lobster Science Centre, says stress levels can be reduced through proper handling.
Burton and Jean Lavallee, clinical scientist at the centre, recently delivered a lobster health information session to shareholders of Alberton Fisheries Ltd.
"Stressors affect lobsters in different ways," Burton told the fisher-shareholders. "Every new stressor adds to that stress."
One of the first stressors lobsters encounter is the change in water temperature. Then they are exposed to air and human handling. Sometimes they are also exposed to sunlight
and rain.
Lavallee said lobsters on some boats are exposed to tossing, and that increases the chances of injury, another stressor. He presented data showing lobster exposed to rain were
6.3 times more likely to be weak as compared to lobsters shielded from the elements. A tossed lobster was three times more likely to be weak than one that was placed, he added.
A surprising discovery from the data was that lobster trapped with fresh herring bait was seven times more likely to be weak than lobsters trapped with any other kind of bait.
Lavallee said he tried to duplicate those findings at a facility in Victoria, but lobsters avoided herring stored at room temperature and hardly touched frozen stuff. He said they displayed a healthy appetite for black back but he couldn't comment on whether black back is more effective at attracting lobster to traps.
Burton said length of time in holding tanks, transportation and open wounds were other factors affecting health of the lobsters. If the horn of the lobster breaks off and it ends up in a crate with its head facing down, all of its blood will flow out.
Lavallee estimated lobster mortality costs the Canadian industry $50- to 75-million a year. "When you look at the total Canadian landings," he said, "we guesstimate that maybe 10 to 15 per cent of lobsters that are landed healthy, by the harvesters, don't make it to the consumer."
He said the Lobster Science Centre is eager to work with plants that experience high mortality levels in the hopes of identifying the causes and finding solutions.
Prince Edward Island's spring lobster season opens April 30.

Organizations: Atlantic Veterinary College, Lobster Science Centre, Alberton Fisheries

Geographic location: Victoria, Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • bruce
    June 21, 2010 - 19:08

    this article takes the lobster not the cake rodney

  • Rodney
    June 21, 2010 - 19:07

    HAHAHAHAHA,,,, this article takes the cake

  • Lster
    June 21, 2010 - 19:06

    wow .. what a species we are. I see no harm in trying to keep the lobster HEALTHY.

    Maybe if we continue stressing the 'food' we catch .. and Maybe if it continues to get more and more unhealthy (that is what stress does to Any living thing), then Maybe, just maybe those stocks will Continue to decline (because of OUR mistreatment/handling.

    But you don't really care do you .. as long as YOU are happy and You have a full belly - why even bother trying to do the Right thing?

    Another sign of the Low Priority education takes here.

  • RANDY
    June 21, 2010 - 19:05

    A few years ago I purchased a 7 pound Lobster and it was too big for the pot I had so I had to rip off his arms and tail while he was alive.
    He didn't say anything so I guess it didn't hurt.

  • gord
    June 21, 2010 - 19:04

    Oh no, Dont let the poor lobsters get stressed before they become dinner... What about when it rains on a cow do farmers give them anti depressants too?

  • the wild west
    June 21, 2010 - 19:03

    maybe the government can give all the fisherman a prescription for nerve pills and they can mix it with the bait,at least the lobsters will be calm when i cook them.