The American lobster (Homarus americanus) fishery is the most profitable commercial fishery in Atlantic Canada, valued at ~$1.5 billion in 2019. Due, in part, to the chaotic nature of the beginning of the lobster season, immobile lobster can arrive at lobster pounds. Under current Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) guidelines, these lobsters are considered unfit for consumption and cannot be sold to the lobster pound. Some lobster pounds can manage the financial loss and will purchase immobile lobsters to ensure harvesters get paid. The financial burden then shifts from the harvesters to the lobster pound operators, who often ship live lobster to international markets for higher profit. Combined, these immobile lobsters represent substantial losses to the Atlantic Canadian lobster fishery. Currently, the only way to test if an immobile lobster is dead is to check for a response to physical or electrical stimulation. If the immobile lobster responds to stimulus, lobster harvesters consider it safe to eat, even if the lobster remains immobile after the test. Lobster harvesters recognize that the immobile lobsters are either stunned or recently dead but claim to be safe for consumption and will personally consume these ‘fresh dead’ lobsters.

The objectives of this project are to 1) develop a device or scientifically sound method to determine if an immobile lobster is objectively dead in situ, and 2) to establish a time period post-mortality in which lobster meat is safe for human consumption and of comparable quality to live lobster.

Photo: Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture