A freshly caught lobster and its quality can be compared to "a gas tank with a one-way gauge on a car," says aquatic science consultant Dr. Jean Lavallee.
"The fuel in that tank is the lobster's quality," said Lavallee. "Every time we handle that lobster, we take some of that fuel out... and it's possible to retain the quality but it's very difficult to put quality back in."
Lavallee discussed lobster quality from a handling perspective during an information session as part of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association's (PEIFA) annual general meeting Saturday in Charlottetown.
Giving numerous tips on how to better handle the shellfish, from trap until it reaches the shore, Lavallee said decline in a lobster's quality is often caused by stress.
This can include stress from rough handling, low oxygen, changes in temperature, toxicity and salinity.
Being crammed too close to others can adversely affect lobsters, with dropping claws and aggressiveness being sure indicators of reduced quality.
"That's the lobster telling you it's stressed," said Lavallee.
The theme of quality control extended into a presentation by PEIFA managing director Ian MacPherson, who spoke of the association's branding, marketing and promotional initiatives.
MacPherson said selling a consistent quality product is necessary in order to create a successful brand.
The PEIFA, as well as the provincial department of fisheries, aquaculture and rural development, have also been in talks to bring Lavallee back to P.E.I. to hold his consulting sessions with Island fishermen.
Lavallee said there are still a number of factors to be decided, such as funding, the number of sessions, as well as where and when they would be held.
Four of five information sessions on Saturday dealt with lobsters, including Lavallee and MacPherson's presentations, as well as an update from Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.
The other lobster-oriented session saw biologist Robert MacMillan provide an annual lobster resource monitoring update.
The other presentation dealt with a three-year Bluefin tuna project being undertaken by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
DFO technician Dheeraj Busawon explained how scientists are able to gain information on the natal origin and age of the Canadian catch of Bluefin tuna by examining the fish's inner ear bone, the otolith.
Busawon said the improved knowledge of tuna will help fishermen understand mixing rates and age structure of the Canadian catch. The end result will be a more reliable stock assessment, he said.