Commercial Fisheries News - June 1999

Removing lobsters from traps

One way to increase the quality and market value of the lobster product is to reduce the damage to lobsters being removed from traps. Damage such as claw loss can harm lobsters and decrease their market value.

A minimal cost of time spent handling lobsters with care can result in short and long-term benefits to harvesters. Market-sized lobsters yield a higher price when all of their appendages are intact. Lobsters are exceptionally adept in their ability to autotomize (let go of) and regenerate (grow back) limbs.

In nature, this allows a lobster to be feisty and fearless in the presence of predators. If a lobster can't escape a threat, it simply offers a part of itself as a token to the predator, then escapes.

Lobsters have a specialization at their joints known as a "plane of autonomy" where the nerves and blood vessels close themselves off quickly so that the lobster experiences minimum pain and bleeding.

At each molt (shed), the lobster slowly grows back the missing part.

However, growing back missing parts takes energy away from overall growth in body size. Growth in lobsters is partitioned between increase in body size and repairing injured, autotomized (thrown), and/or damaged parts.

For example, the overall growth of a lobster that loses a claw becomes stunted because the lobster puts its energy into growing back the claw rather than increasing overall body length. Therefore, a short lobster that loses a claw will take longer to reach minimum legal size.

Harvesters will benefit from avoiding lobster limb loss for at least three reasons:

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