Science

"Fitbit for lobsters" could reduce pressure on wild stocks

"Fitbit for lobsters" could re...
A test-subject lobster, equipped with a prototype C-HAT
A test-subject lobster, equipped with a prototype C-HAT
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A look inside the C-HAT
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A look inside the C-HAT
Although rather bulky in its current form, the C-HAT gathers data in a non-invasive fashion
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Although rather bulky in its current form, the C-HAT gathers data in a non-invasive fashion
A test-subject lobster, equipped with a prototype C-HAT
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A test-subject lobster, equipped with a prototype C-HAT
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Unlike many other seafood species, lobsters are typically shipped to stores and restaurants while still alive. New technology could help them survive the journey, thus reducing the number of extra lobsters that have to be caught in order to provide a "buffer."

As part of a two-year project, an initiative led by the University of Maine Lobster Institute has developed a device that's described as a miniature fitness tracker for lobsters. It's called the crustacean heart and activity tracker, or C-HAT, and it's strapped to a lobster's back as soon as the creature is removed from the trap at sea.

The device remains in place as the lobster sits in the fishing vessel's onboard live storage tank, moves through the supply chain, and ends up at a retailer or processing facility. Along the way, the C-HAT continuously monitors and logs the crustacean's movements and heart rate. The idea is that one or more lobsters in a shipped batch would be equipped with the tool, providing data that could be applied to the other individuals.

Although rather bulky in its current form, the C-HAT gathers data in a non-invasive fashion
Although rather bulky in its current form, the C-HAT gathers data in a non-invasive fashion

Additionally included in each shipment would be a standalone sensory device called the MockLobster. It would log factors such as light levels, water temperature and dissolved oxygen, which would be combined with the C-HAT data to create a profile of the conditions that the animals experienced. If lobsters on a given route consistently perished before reaching their destination, then that profile would be reviewed to see where improvements could be made.

"We are making a collective effort to bring new technology to bear to address stress points as lobsters change hands multiple times in their trip from trap to table," says Lobster Institute director Rick Wahle. "If we can demonstrate that we have the tools to track the fate of lobsters through the supply chain and enhance their survival, that will be a success."

Source: University of Maine

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