The lobster industry is somewhat unique, at least in this country, in that it involves an animal food that is kept alive until it has reached the destination where it will be consumed or used. As a result, the industry has to deal with a problem they call “shrink”, which is the mortality lobsters experience as they change hands from capture to kitchen.
Maine’s lobster industry has reached out to the University of Maine Lobster Institute along with collaborators at other institutions to help quantify and mitigate stress points in the lobster supply chain that reduce survival and profitability.
A 2-year project was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create miniature sensory devices – crustacean heart and activity trackers (called C-HATs). These are essentially Fitbits for lobsters. The noninvasive devices strapped on a lobster monitor its heart rate and movement as it passes from trap to on-board live tank to live storage crate to truck to wholesaler to retailer or processor.
A separate sensor-equipped device called the MockLobster travels along with the lobsters to log environmental conditions experienced, including temperature, light and dissolved oxygen levels.
The hope is to be able to get a good handle on the conditions lobsters experience from trap to market and learn where problems are likely to arise. The researchers are also working to develop economical, standardized protocols to monitor water quality and the heath of lobsters during their movement through the supply chain.
The goal is to produce big improvements in the bottom lines of everyone along the supply chain along with big improvements in the health of the lobsters destined for market.
Photo, posted August 29, 2015, courtesy of Adam Grimes via Flickr.