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Use of reflex indicators for measuring vitality and mortality of the snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) in captivity

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Kjetil Aune


Aquaculture Research ; Volume 50. p. 1321–1328. 2019

James, Philip; Izquierdo-Gomez, David; Siikavuopio, Sten Ivar

The snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) is one of the most important commercial crabs in the world; it is heavily exploited in Atlantic Canada, Alaska, the Sea of Japan and the Barents Sea. Catches in the Barents Sea north of Norway have increased dramati‐cally in the last decade. Most of the world’s catch is processed, frozen and exported overseas. However, recently there has been considerable interest in exporting live snow crab, particularly in Norway. The stress of capture and live transport can result in significant mortalities. In order to establish a live export industry for snow crab, the welfare of the animal must be monitored throughout all the steps of the live transport process. In this study the reactions of snow crabs exposed to increasing periods of air exposure were measured in terms of reflex indicators, incidence of mortality, blood lactate levels and blood protein and haemocyanin. Although this is not a specific live holding or live transport process the aim was to test the suitability of reflex indicators to reflect vitality (stress) and not just to predict mortality. This would be compared with traditional blood biochemistry techniques for measuring crustacean stress. The study demonstrated that the reflex index score (RIS) is suitable to assess the vitality of snow crab. Longer air exposure periods render higher mortality rates and less vital individuals. The authors believe using vitality reflex indicators would be a suitable way of measuring crab welfare during the live holding and transport process.

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