Commercial Fisheries News - February 2000

Storing live lobsters

Approximately 70% of annual lobster landings are taken from Gulf of Maine waters in August, September, and October. The preferred product on the market is live. To spread the production over a longer marketing season, untold millions of pounds of live lobsters are stored each winter in various facilities. Methods of live storage include an array of systems, from large enclosures in nature, to holding tanks, to huge humidified refrigeration units.

Whether storing lobsters in pounds, crates, cars, or tanks, there are a few rules of thumb to increase survivorship and quality of the product. To successfully store live lobsters:

Good water quality means:

Low temperature is a critical factor in this scenario because lobsters (and lobster pathogens) are poikilotherms — meaning that they are unable to regulate their body temperatures through metabolism. The body temperature of poikilotherms is instead determined by the surroundings. To stay warm in winter, lobsters move into deeper water.

Keeping lobsters in cold water causes their metabolism to slow down so they won't eat too much and produce copious amounts of waste that would poison them. In addition, low temperatures slow pathogens that may otherwise attack lobsters. (Aside: poikilotherms used to be called "cold-blooded," but this term is inaccurate because even though the blood is cold if the surroundings are cold, the body is warm if the surroundings are warm.)

Unhealthy lobsters may:

Ask the Lobster Doc