The current method for shipping live crustaceans is either by air-transport or by land-transport in 'Vivier' trucks. Transport by land using 'Vivier' trucks is not effective due to the necessity to carry up to 10 tons of water to accommodate 6-8 tons of product. The survival rate of the creatures over long transport times can be less than 70% due to the build up of ammonia and nitrite which causes mortalities and general weakness. Even if the creatures arrive at their destination alive further mortalities can be caused after re-tanking due to stress during shipping.
Much work has been done on the development of the pet fish industry particularly in the transportation of these fish in the live state to various corners of the world. The main technical developments in the pet fish industry relate to innovative filtering and close measuring and monitoring techniques. This has enabled leading producers to achieve close to 100% survival rates in transport over long distances and time. The objective of the project was to use this technology and adapt it to the commercial live seafood industry with particular emphasis on the transportation of live crustaceans i.e. lobsters, crawfish and crabs without incurring mortalities for periods of more than 48 hours.
The benefits of this project were envisaged to be widespread and include:
- ecological whereby overall mortalities of crustaceans can be reduced by 20%. This would open up new markets, particularly in South east Asia
- employment and rural development as the project could provide sustainable employment in some of the most remote and disadvantaged regions of the EU
- modernisation of traditional industries as there was the potential to increase added value throughout the supply chain and lead to better management of animal stocks.
The technology developed involves a preparation process, a holding process and a shipping process. The preparation and holding processes were derived from pet-fish methods with special tanks capable of storing 400 - 500 kg of crustaceans. The treatment, control and monitoring of conditions in the tanks has to be closely optimised. Similarly, the packaging for transportation had to be designed, optimised and trialed with the pilot users in Europe and to some users in Asia. The methods developed can be summarised as follows:
- preparation prior to shipment - minimising nitrates and nitrites, minimising stress and reducing metabolic rate.
- transportation, packaging and control methods for periods of up to 60 hours.
- re-tanking at the reception site such that mortalities do not occur within the crucial first 2 days.