A “blood test” to better assess the state of health of the Madelinot lobster

We are going to do punctures, as if we were doing a blood puncture on the human, but on the lobsterexplains the research assistant, Camille Berthod,.

Currently, there are no quantitative parameters to know the condition of lobsters, following environmental stresses such as warming, under-oxygenation, acidification or exposure to contaminants.

Currently, factories use rather subjective valuesexplains the research professional at Merinov, Noémie Pelletier. If a batch of lobsters seems to be in poorer shape or lower quality, we will immediately process it, but the objective is to have quantifiable data on the quality of the lobster.

Noémie Pelletier takes a measurement on a device in front of a fish tank.

“The objective of the project is to test and develop inexpensive and easy-to-use tools for the industry to determine the quality of lobster,” explains Merinov research professional Noémie Pelletier.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Isabelle Larose

We are developing two biotests that measure lactate, which is an indicator of stress, and histamine, another indicator of stress and quality.explains Noémie Pelletier.

These two molecules are produced naturally by the lobster, but can become fatal for the crustacean if they are found in too high a concentration.

Lactate, for example, will be overproduced in the event of lack of oxygenexplains the research assistant and doctoral candidate in oceanography at theUQARCamille Berthod.

Histamine and lactate are suspected of having caused episodes of mortality in lobsters in the tank, a phenomenon sometimes observed in the industry, but the causes of which remain to be determined.

Dozens of lobsters in a tank.

Until now, the evaluation of the health of lobsters is done mainly visually and is not based on quantitative data, apart from a single index measuring the level of blood proteins.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Isabelle Larose

Thanks to the research project, lobster hemolymph, the equivalent of blood in humans, will be collected at different times before the lobster is marketed, directly on the fishing boats until sorting in the factory.

Fishermen in front of a tank full of lobster, aboard their boat at the Pointe-Basse wharf, in Havre-aux-Maisons.

Scientists will visit the lobster boats to measure the lactate and histamine concentration of the lobsters right after they are caught.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Isabelle Larose

The hemolymph puncture is already well established in the industry, but until now it was only used to assess the crustacean’s blood protein level, ie the Brix index.

This index makes it possible to better understand the energy reserves of the lobster, but it does not necessarily give an indication of the quality of this lobster, that is why we must develop other tests.explains Noémie Pelletier. We hope to give plants a tool to help them decide what to do with the lobsters.

Camille Berthod looks at a lobster tank.

Research assistant Camille Berthod leads part of the research project in the Merinov basin room located in Havre-aux-Maisons.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Isabelle Larose

Export lobster or process it locally?

The biotests will be tested next week at Fruits de mer Madeleine, a seafood product processing company in the Magdalen Islands.

Pascale Chevarie inserts a needle into a lobster in front of the automatic sorter.

The director of quality and certification at Fruits de mer Madeleine, Pascale Chevarie, performs a hemolymph puncture in the lobster sorting plant.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Isabelle Larose

By having more information, we will be able to better decide if a lot is more suitable to send for processing or for export to live markets.explains the director of quality and certification at Fruits de mer Madeleine, Pascale Chevarie

A research project like this gives us concrete tools to better manage our batches. »

A quote from Pascale Chevarie, Director of Quality and Certification at Fruits de mer Madeleine

Since lobsters caught in the Magdalen Islands often travel long distances before being marketed, only the most vigorous will be selected for export alive.

A lobster that may be a little more stressed might find it difficult to weather a long tripmentions Ms. Chevarie. For example, lobsters that will have lactate levels or histamine levels are still very good, but would be more appropriate for the processing market.

Two men from behind place lobsters on an automatic sorter in the Fruits de mer Madeleine factory in Havre-aux-Maisons.

Biotests could make it possible to define more clearly which lobsters are more suitable for export.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Isabelle Larose

If the scientific results are conclusive and the process is well suited to the industry, Fruits de mer Madeleine could integrate the systematic use of these new biotests into its daily production as of the next fishing season.

The cost of the HOMADIAG research project is $100,000. It is funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec–Nature et technologie (FRQNT).


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