Aquaculture for all

Keeping Tabs On Disease And Alien Lobsters

Crustaceans Health Clams +5 more

UK - Scientists from Swansea University are appealing to fishermen for information on crab and lobster shell disease and the locations of American Lobster.

University researchers at Swansea University are planning on creating a map of hot spots of brown crab and lobster black spot‟ shell disease. The work is part of a collaborative project (SUSFISH) between Welsh and Irish Universities investigating the impacts of climate change on commercial shellfish productivity within the Irish Sea.

Shell disease is caused by bacteria which degrade the shell forming the characteristic black spot. lesions. Black spot. affects a variety of commercial crustacean species and in severe cases will cause mortality. The disease is thought to occur in some areas and not others, suggesting that it may be affected by environmental factors. The economic cost of black spot. has not been calculated but discards and mortality during storage in keep pots and vivier tanks could be a significant burden to fishermen.

Recent reports of American/Canadian Lobsters being caught in European waters highlight potential problems caused by alien species and their associated diseases.

In the USA, the southern New England lobster fishery has recently been decimated by a new epizootic shell disease. This new disease causes the lobsters shell to completely rot away. Infected lobsters are often unable to molt properly and may die in the process. Also, diseased animals may have weakened immune systems allowing other infections to kill the lobster.

From a population perspective, it is the large females which produce the most offspring that are considered most at risk. Researchers in the US have reported infection rates as high as 30 per cent in Massachusetts and 43 per cent in Rhode Island. Alarmingly, an American lobster with this epizootic disease was caught in Norway waters in 2010.

The team at Swansea University aim to map records of American lobsters caught or seen by commercial fishermen around UK and Irish coasts. This will enable them to identify any hot spots of the aliens and to assess the level of risk to European lobster populations.

A Fisheries Challenge Fund grant has also recently been awarded by the MMO to the Swansea University team and Dr Michael Tlusty from the New England Aquarium, Boston, USA to carry out further research on the threat of epizootic shell disease to our native lobster. The researchers are working with the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, as the main stakeholder, who will provide integral support to the grant.

Working with fisheries expert Dr Andy Woolmer from Salacia-Marine, a short five minute questionnaire has been produced that will enable fishermen to provide records and help the researchers map shell disease hot spots and alien American lobsters. Fishermen‟s inputs are invaluable, so in order to make this as easy as possible for busy people the questionnaire can be filled out in a variety of ways:

  • online at
  • downloaded and emailed or posted from:
  • A printed version can be obtained by contacting Dr Emma Wootton on Tel: 00 44 1792 863436; Email:

David Jarrad, the Director of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, said We are pleased to be able to assist Swansea University in working with the commercial fishing industry. The SAGB wants to promote partnerships between academia and the industry to answer the many pressing questions that we need to address to ensure a healthy, sustainable and profitable future for our fisheries.

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