Marine biologist Curt Brown points out the aerating lobster holding tanks at Ready Seafood to Katie Pelletier ’19 of Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. Photo: Patricia Erikson.
STANDISH, MAINE – With funding from Maine Technology Institute’s Technology Asset Fund, faculty and students in the Saint Joseph’s College of Maine Sciences Department are among the top lobster scientists in Maine contributing to a unique, two-year industry-higher education collaboration between Ready Seafood, Inc., Saint Joseph’s College, and the University of Maine. At its core, this project involves research designed to increase the value of Maine’s most valuable fisheries resource by improving scientific understanding of lobster physiology that will enable increased survival rates of live lobsters during shipping. The value of lobster landed in Maine was $533.1 million in 2016 or nearly 80% of the landed value of all fisheries in the State. With projections that lobster populations have reached their peak, the industry is looking to scientists for innovative ways to increase value. One way to do this is to create an environment where a “soft shell lobster” turns into a more resilient and valuable “hard shell lobster” after it has been trapped.
Marine biologist Curt Brown (Ready Seafood) shows the company’s lobster holding tanks to Dr. Steve Jury and Katie Pelletier of Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. According to Annie Tselikis, director of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association, the position of lobster biologist at a private seafood company is unique in the Maine lobster industry (quoted in Maine Biz). Photo: Patricia Erikson.
“Given that Maine’s largest export fishery is reliant on volume, it’s a good time to invest in projects that help to maximize the value of this fishery. You cannot just put any lobster on a plane to Rome or Shanghai. This project asks, what if instead of grading, sorting, and selling the lobsters as quickly as possible, wholesalers like us were to hold them in state-of-the-art tank facilities and–through diet and water chemistry and temperature manipulations–we are able to turn B-Grade lobsters into A-Grade lobsters? This represents a dramatic change in the way of thinking about the future of this fishery. If it hadn’t been for Dr. Jury’s research and collaboration, we would not have received this grant. His work has pumped new life into the company. What we’re doing with science sets us apart.”
(L to R): Saint Joseph’s College President James Dlugos, Ph.D., Dr. Steve Jury (SJC Sciences), Kate Pelletier (SJC ‘19), and Ready Seafood Marine Biologist Curt Brown gather at the Saint Joseph’s College of Maine laboratories to review the scientific processes involved in this unique industry-higher education collaboration. Dr. Lucas Bernacki (SJC Sciences) is another member of the team who is absent from the photograph. Photo: Patricia Erikson.
The Saint Joseph’s team, including Dr. Steve Jury, Dr. Lucas Bernacki, and Katherine “Katie” Pelletier ‘19, manipulated holding tank conditions in the College’s “wet lab” facilities through the summer and then tested lobster “hemolymph”–the fluid similar to blood in humans–to measure the impact on their protein levels.
Dr. Jury said, “By understanding how lobster physiology responds to modifying salinity and ion chemistry of their holding tank water (as well as to different types of feed supplements), there may be a way to influence their health and improve their shipping survival rates. They ship better if specific hemolymph protein levels are higher. Early results of our research are encouraging.”
Kate Pelletier ‘19 said, “I have been working in a hospital for two years as a phlebotomist. Although I like working with people better, I wanted to do something with blood and I wanted the opportunity to do research. Dr. Jury showed me this study and it was perfect timing for me to take advantage of this opportunity. Eventually, I would like to work in a lab on human health research.”
Founded in 1912 by the Sisters of Mercy in Portland, Maine, Saint Joseph’s College is Maine’s Catholic liberal arts College with a commitment to sustainability and wellness. The 474-acre campus, located on the shore of Sebago Lake in Standish, Maine offers more than 40 undergraduate programs and a nationally renown Division III athletic program to a population of approximately 1,000 on-campus students. The College provides certificates and undergraduate and advanced degrees for thousands more working adults who reside throughout the United States and in more than 20 other countries through an online learning program. In 2015 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognized the College’s focus on community service through its mission and daily interactions with local, regional, and global communities with the Community Engagement Classification. For more information about Sciences at SJC, see: www.sjcme.edu/science.
About Ready Seafood
Ready Seafood is a live and processed lobster wholesale company based in Portland, Maine. Founded by brothers John and Brendan Ready, the company has grown into a global supplier of all lobster products. Additionally, Ready Seafood is the only lobster company in the United States with an on-site marine biologist focused on lobster quality and sustainability. See www.readyseafood.com.