Risk factors associated with soft-shelled lobsters (Homarus americanus) in southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada

Thakur, Krishna K. and Revie, Crawford and Stryhn, Henrik and Tibbetts, Shannon Scott and Lavallée, Jean and Vanderstichel, Raphaël (2017) Risk factors associated with soft-shelled lobsters (Homarus americanus) in southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada. FACETS, 2 (1). pp. 15-33.

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    Abstract

    Soft-shelled lobsters pose economic challenges to the lobster industry due to low meat yields and survivability during holding and transportation. Our objectives were to describe spatio-temporal patterns of soft-shelled lobsters in southwestern Nova Scotia, and identify environmental and lobster-related factors associated with shell quality. We analyzed data obtained from a broad-scale, intensive monitoring project and remotely sensed water temperatures. Mixed-effect logistic regression and linear regression methods analyzed more than 130 000 samples collected between 2004 and 2014. The annual overall prevalence of soft-shelled lobsters ranged from 9% to 38% and varied significantly among fishing areas. Shell quality was influenced by sex and size, and in the 2 months before the fishing season, lower water temperatures (4–6 weeks prior to sampling) were associated with reduced prevalence of soft-shells. High annual variability of soft-shell prevalence, that water temperature alone could not explain, suggests that adjusting fishing seasons, arbitrarily, in two fishing areas will not improve the overall shell quality of landed lobsters. Further research is needed to evaluate the effects of long-term temperature and ecosystem changes on lobster health in eastern Canada.