Studying Effects on American Lobsters
American lobster (Homarus americanus) exports from Canada reached $3.26 billion in 2021. Other ocean activities and climate change present potential threats to specific lobster life stages.
Each year, Huntsman Marine purchases adult lobsters from the local fishery or acquires special permission to retain ‘berried’ (carrying eggs) female lobsters to produce early life stages for toxicology testing.
Our American lobster research primarily focuses on completing controlled toxicology exposures to ensure this important fishery is able to co-exist with other important sectors of the ocean economy, such as oil production/shipping and aquaculture production.
The first graduate student conducting research at The Huntsman Marine Science Centre, Dr. Peter Wells, completed some of the earliest studies on the effects of oil spills on American lobster early life stages in the early 1970’s. Today, we offer a globally recognized and robust aquatic toxicology program – studying the effects on numerous freshwater and seawater organisms and life stages following exposure to various established and emerging contaminants.
Our capacity to complete professional toxicology exposures across the full range of American lobster life stages and molting phases is globally recognized. Our efforts help to determine risk following use of drugs/pesticides and, in the case of oil spills, help guide the incident response team to choose measures that mitigate effects on American lobster populations. In a typical year, Huntsman Marine research teammates provide husbandry to care for hundreds of adult lobsters and thousands of larval/juvenile lobsters to support these controlled laboratory exposure studies:
Pesticides – These compounds often target insects or crustaceans and may also affect American lobsters following sufficient exposure. Larval early life stages live in the water column and are often used in our controlled laboratory exposures with pesticides (e.g., Evaluating non-lethal and latent effects of anti-sea lice pesticide azamethiphos on larvae and adults of the American lobster (Homarus americanus): https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/are.16109).
Aquaculture drugs – Medicated aquaculture feed has the potential to reach the seabed where lobsters may be living. Huntsman Marine researchers have methods to study the effects of incidental ingestion on lobster survival, molting success and overall health using post-settled juvenile and adult lobsters (e.g., The effects of emamectin benzoate or ivermectin spiked sediment on juvenile American lobsters (Homarus americanus). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.06.075).
Spilled crude oil and mitigation responses – The East coast of Canada has robust offshore oil production while the Bay of Fundy is an active waterbody for shipping crude oil and refined products in and out of the Port Saint John. From 2015-2022, Huntsman Marine led two comprehensive research programs to investigate the possible effects of an offshore Newfoundland and Labrador oil spill and alternate response measures to mitigate a ship source oil spill on commercially important species, including lobster (e.g., Newly hatched stage I American lobster (Homarus americanus) survival following exposure to physically and chemically dispersed crude oil: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-022-00912-z).
Low sulfur fuel oils – In 2022, Huntsman Marine received the prestigious ITOPF Annual R&D Award to study the toxicological effects of new generation low and ultra- low sulfur fuel oils, including on the planktonic lobster life stage. The project also includes a collaboration with Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences (East Boothbay, ME) while 49 test samples bunkered in 16 countries were provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) (https://www.itopf.org/news-events/news/itopf-grants-11th-annual-research-and-development-r-d-award-to-polite-project-canada/).
At times our lobster research capacity, coupled with Huntsman Marine aquatic animal health expertise, is also requested to validate aquatic animal holding technologies, such as the case with a recent innovative shipping container study to live haul aquatic animals to distant markets, including the American lobster (https://oceansupercluster.ca/bluevita-technology-project/).
Research described in this Impact Spotlight was funded by private sector Study Sponsors, Natural Resources Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, ITOPF, and Canada’s Ocean Supercluster.
Reach out to The Huntsman Marine Science Centre if you have any questions: