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Keywords:

  • crustacean;
  • crab;
  • transport;
  • recovery;
  • stress;
  • vigour

Abstract

The trade of live Cancer pagurus in Portugal is totally dependent on imports, mainly from UK. Animals are transported for 48–58 h in conditions that promote high mortalities (40–60%) due to cumulative stressors. The present work aimed to optimize transport, by comparing the physiological responses of edible crab during different simulated live shipment systems for 48 h and recovery conditions: (a) immersed crabs at 12°C; and (b) air-exposed crabs at 4°C and subsequent recovery at 16°C with and without pre-acclimation. Both simulated transport systems induced physiological stress, culminating in 25% mortality in immersed conditions and only 4% in air-exposed conditions. Both systems elicited anaerobic responses marked by hyperglycaemia and increased l-lactate concentration in haemolymph. At the end of the recovery period only air-exposed animals resumed to l-lactate and pH control values, the lowest mortality was achieved with crabs acclimated at the lowest temperature (from 6 to 16°C at 1.5°C/h). Overall, results showed that crabs can be transported in air-exposed conditions at 4°C and acclimated from 6 to 16°C and reach similar physiological conditions than the traditional transport in immersed conditions at 12°C.