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Research aims to reduce incidence of lobster leg loss

RESEARCH by the Geraldton Fisher-men’s Cooperative may go a long way to solving a problem for lobster fishermen, which costs the industry up to an estimated $3 million a year.

The issue is leg loss, a natural phenomenon that occurs when stressed lobsters shed their legs, reducing their value to fishermen both in terms of catch weight and appearance.

In addition, future catches may be reduced because undersized lobster returned to the sea after shedding legs have a reduced chance of survival and those that do live expend significant energy regrowing legs rather than their increasing their body weight.

GCC chairman John Fitzhardinge said two innovations by cooperative researchers had made inroads into this problem.

One initiative is to place freshly caught lobster immediately in chilled water, which makes them passive, reducing their attempts to escape, which can lead to leg loss.

A second discovery is more radical. Apparently, lobster don’t like salt, a problem that may seem unusual for a sea creature.

Of course, this is only when lobster are confronted with higher levels of salt concentration than they’re used to that they have the habit of shedding their legs.

This often occurs when they are hauled on board on a dry hot day, where a big amount of evaporation leaves the boat with a high salinty content. The answer, it seems, is to keep the working enviroment well doused with water so the lobster feel more at home when they are hauled from the sea.

Mr Fitzhardinge said research continues to determine if some of this activity, particularly chilling, has any adverse effect on the lobster, particularly breeding females.

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