Commercial Fisheries News - August 2002

Shedders need special care

Lobsters are particularly vulnerable to injury and disease a few days before shedding and through a couple of weeks after.

Soft-shelled lobsters are prone to external bodily harm inflicted by trap and tank mates. Less conspicuous damage, such as gill abrasions and internal injuries, are also more common during the shed.

Hauling a trap aboard with 20 or 30 intact lobsters inside is a beautiful and awe-inspiring sight. But, while the lobsters usually don't harm each other on the way up, once agitated, they start snapping at whatever they can grab, which is usually each other. A common consequence is loss of limbs.

Here are a few practices that can help minimize damage to trap-caught shedders.

Trap to shore
The most important consideration for safely transporting lobsters from trap to shore is to keep them cool and moist. A tank constantly filling with running sea water works best. A reasonable alternative is an aerated recirculation system with refrigeration.

There's a good reason for never holding lobsters in a container filled with standing water—they quickly use up the oxygen and die of suffocation.

If you need to keep the lobsters in a bucket or tote without running water, cover them with cool, moist seaweed or a sea-water-soaked rag. At the very least, make sure the lobsters are shaded.

Finally, if you store lobsters in crates or live cars, avoid overcrowding and take care to gently lift and set crates down on the scale during weighing.

Other tips include: not leaving bait in containers for more than a day; removing dead or dying lobsters to protect the living; and separating soft- from hard-shelled lobsters whenever possible.

Ask the Lobster Doc