Post-harvest leg loss has been identified by many major stakeholders as a major and costly problem for the western rock lobster industry. FRDC project 2000/251 has developed a method for reliably inducing autotomy through the application of hypersaline seawater. Preliminary investigations show that concentrated seawater capable of inducing this phenomenon may be widespread throughout the industry, and lobsters may come into contact with this water regularly and throughout the handling chain. Further investigations into the extent and nature of this problem and development of solutions are beyond the scope and resources of FRDC project 2000/251. International literature searches reveal that there are no published accounts of similar phenomena in other crustacea.
The previously undescribed phenomenon of hypersaline-induced autotomy in western rock lobsters has been fully characterised. The extent of occurrence of hypersaline films throughout the post-harvest chain has been examined and found to be significant. Environmental factors contributing to the phenomenon have been investigated.
Appreciable leg loss has been shown to occur during industry standard freshwater “drowning”.
Washing of contact surfaces and cold-stunning have been shown to be effective methods for preventing hypersaline-induced autotomy and leg loss during drowning, with the potential to save the industry six figure sums each year by reducing loss of catch weight and downgrading of damaged lobsters.