KENNEBUNK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Lobstermen gathered at Kennebunk Elementary School Monday morning for a workshop on improving quality and profitability of the lobsters they harvest.
The "Lobster Quality Tour" is a series of workshops put on by the Maine Lobstermen's Association.
Lobster health expert Dr. Jean Lavallee spoke on a variety of topics including lobster biology and the stressors that lobsters encounter during the harvest and points thereafter.
"We're just trying to make them more aware from a lobster's perspective," said Dr. Lavallee.
Dr. Lavallee said a lobster takes a unique recovery from a stressor. Immediately, the lobster enters the alarm phase, then the reaction phase, followed by the resistance phase, then the exhaustion phase, and then death. Lavallee said when a lobster enters the exhaustion phase, that there is usually no chance the lobster can fully recover.
He said reminding lobstermen of proper techniques can reduce the amount of stressors a lobster endures.
"Time is money, but sometimes taking your time will bring you back more than getting home a half an hour early," said Lavallee. "If we handle our product just a little bit more gentle, the end result is going to be a better quality product."
Even the type of bait used, or environmental factors such as a rainy day can decrease lobster quality.
Dr. Lavallee said the factors that contribute to lobster quality include meat yield, shell hardness/molt, storage/shipping time, liveliness, health, taste and texture.
Lobsterman Steve Train said he knows that these basics can make a big difference. He said lobstermen typically lose about five percent of their landings.
"We try to treat lobster like an egg but we still see people toss them once in a while," said Train. "You try not to drag the trap over the rail and knock the legs off but it's still going to happen once in a while. If we can reduce that loss in the product then we're all going to gain."
Lavalee said throwing the lobster back in the water can hurt the lobster and break limbs, and that dragging traps over the rail of a boat can chop off claws or legs that are sticking out of the trap.
Puncture wounds and pulling traps to the surface of the water too quickly can also stress the lobsters, which in some cases can lead to death.
"If you take a boat that lands even 25,000 pounds a year on a $3.50 or $4 price and you increase that by five percent, it's a car payment," said Train.
Lavallee said two simple mottos can help lobstermen reduce their losses.
"Two hands, a pat on the back, and a kiss," and "one hand, one lobster," Lavallee says, will prevent dropping, wounding, or stressing the lobster excessively.
The United States is the second-leading lobster producing country behind Canada.
The Maine Lobstermen's Association has five more stops planned:
4/19 - Boothbay/Rockland
4/20 - Deer Isle/Ellsworth
4/21 - Machias