23rd May

Survival and quality of brown crab depends on maintaining high standards along the supply chain

An AquaReg-backed study that aims to improve the survival and quality of live crab during holding and transportation to markets shows that today’s technology is limited, and in some cases high mortality can occur.

The tri-lateral project involving researchers in Trødelag (Norway); BMW (Ireland) and Galicia (Spain) aims to reduce transportation costs and open new markets worldwide for crab.

Project co-ordinator, Erik Kartevoll of INAQ Management AS, told Inshore Ireland that the traditional markets for live crab were “almost saturated” due to strong competition from other seafood and more convenience foods. “This is a driving force for developing new markets and new processing products,” he said.


The challenge in holding and transporting live crab “is the distance between catching area and processing plants,” he added. In some cases the crab has to be kept alive in plastic boxes for 24 to 48 hours.

“If the crab is sorted and handled badly, high mortality could be the result,” Kartevoll explained.

Ireland lands approximately 11,500 tonnes of brown crab (Cancer pagurus) annually, 80% of which goes to live markets in Spain and France. In the UK the situation is similar but landings are almost double.

In Norway, however, where annual landings are approximately 5,300 tonnes, more than 95% of the catch is boiled and processed before transportation to markets in Norway and Europe.

Sprinkler system
The study also looked at transporting the crab to markets live in air from vivier vessels or in holding tanks. “Research is underway into ‘cascade’ wetting the crab when storing or transporting dry for long periods,” Kartevoll explained.

Today, crab is transported live in containers in lorries with 50:50 crab to seawater, but bad water quality and fluctuations in water temperature can result in high mortality.” Kartevoll said.

AquaReg plans further research to design new technology to address these challenges and reduce transport costs that are currently based on weight, which is up to 50% water. 

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