Researchers at the University of Prince Edward Island are trying to determine how to know if a lobster is full of meat, in the hopes of boosting prices for the industry.
As the fishery stands now, a lobster is a lobster is a lobster. It is difficult to separate lobsters for their different qualities. But not all markets want the same thing. Processors want lobsters that are full of meat, not one that is still recovering from moulting. But some American consumers want a soft-shelled lobster that is easy to get into.
"There is a demand for the different quality standards, or the different quality levels of the lobster. We just need to be able to put the right lobster in the right hands," researcher Jean Lavalee of UPEI's Lobster Science Centre told CBC News on Tuesday.
"We want to to come up with easy ways, or indicators that will tell us this lobster is hard-shelled and fully-meated, or hard-shelled but not completely fully-meated. So then we can use that product and put it in the right direction in terms of market segment."
Researchers at the centre are working on different tests, such as measuring blood proteins, to determine the qualities of the crustacean as a food product.
Lavalee said if fishermen can determine the quality of a lobster early on, they could get more money for their catch.
Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association, said a grading system similar to beef is a possibility, but what the grades mean has to be clear.
"Anybody can come put a sticker on it and say it's A or B or C," said McGeoghegan.
"We need hard science to say if a buyer's in charge of that, is he going to give us a poor grade? So we have to be careful of that."
McGeoghegan said he hopes to have more discussions in the coming months with buyers and processors about the idea of getting paid based on quality.