In the News | June 2021

Researchers Fabricate Super-Strong Lobster Underbelly

MIT researchers have created a synthetic hydrogel that mimics the stretch and strength of a lobster’s underbelly. The material could provide a blueprint for stretchy protective fabrics and artificial tissues. A lobster’s underbelly is lined with a thin, translucent membrane that is both stretchy and surprisingly tough. This marine under-armor is made from the toughest known hydrogel in nature, which also happens to be highly flexible. An MIT research team has fabricated a hydrogel-based material that mimics the structure of the lobster’s underbelly. The researchers ran the material through a battery of stretch and impact tests and showed that the synthetic material is remarkably “fatigue-resistant,” able to withstand repeated stretches and strains without tearing.

Growing Lobster in a Lab

Wisconsin firm Cultured Decadence is a cellular agriculture startup using cell culture and tissue engineering to create lobster directly from live lobster cells — basically, lab-grown lobster. The company says its product will be indistinguishable in form and function from wild-caught lobster, only without the shell. To grow a lobster, Cultured Decadence sources Maine lobsters, selects small tissue samples in its lab, isolates the cells from the tissue and uses them to grow meat in a controlled environment. The company is still focused on research and development and will ramp up prototyping later in the year.

China Lagging on Imports of Lobster

Chinese purchases of lobster were significantly less than that of 2017, despite a trade agreement established last year Photo courtesy: WSJ

China is not living up to its commitments to purchase U.S. seafood under the 2020 trade agreement between the two countries, according to Matt Tinning, Director of Sustainability and Public Affairs, at the U.S. fishery trade body At-Sea Processors Association. The U.S. China Economic and Trade Agreement, also known as the “phase one deal,” was signed in early 2020 and bound China to USD 200 billion (EUR 164.5 billion) in purchases from the U.S. through increasing orders of certain commodities, including seafood. The increase was based on figures for 2017 — the last full year before the trade war began. The deal committed China to a subsequent ramp up in 2021, with the deal effective until the end of this year when the phase one deal expires. “While the precise figure for seafood stipulated in the deal remains classified, official data from China for its 2020 seafood imports shows seafood purchases from the U.S. were significantly below the 2017 baseline,” Tinning said. “They didn’t even meet the 2017 baseline.” U.S. seafood products remain at a major tariff disadvantage in China, because a 30 percent retaliatory tariff is still in place.

Mass. Whale Closure Lifted, Weak Rope Required

Photo courtsey: NOAA

On May 14, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries lifted the seasonal trap gear closure and seasonal vessel speed restrictions in the areas north and east of Cape Cod. This action was taken in response to an aerial survey by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies that showed no right whales remained in Massachusetts state waters. All Massachusetts lobstermen are now required to fish buoy lines with a breaking strength of 1700 pounds or less which may be achieved in one of two ways.

First, fishermen may use specially manufactured buoy lines with a custom 1,700 pound break strength. These manufactured, fully-formed weak ropes are the Rocky Mount Cordage Company’s 3/8” diameter red weak rope and 3/8” diameter red and white weaved (“candy cane”) weak rope.


Second, fishermen may insert NOAA Fisheries approved weak contrivances into the top 75% of normal 3/8” buoy line every 60 feet. Approved weak contrivances include the “South Shore Sleeve” and several varieties of splices involving the fully formed weak rope. Approved weak rope contrivances for Mass. lobstermen:
1) a four tuck splice of red weak rope in 3/8” buoy line;
2) a three tuck splice of red weak rope into 3/8” buoy line;
3) an eye-to-loop splice of red weak rope into a 3/8” buoy line;
4) a butt splice of red weak rope into 3/8” buoy line;
5) a four tuck splice of candy cane weak rope into a 3/8” buoy line;
6) an eye-to-loop splice of candy cane weak rope into a 3/8” buoy line;
7) the South Shore Sleeve with a heat shrink cover.

Fishery Closures in Gulf of St. Lawrence

As fisheries reopened in Massachusetts on May 14, fisheries in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence are closing as right whales are detected there. The first right whale was detected in Canada in April 25. Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) issued its first 15 day snow crab fishery closure on April 26, and has issued notice of 7 closures as of May 21. DFO has also implemented seasonal fishery closures due to persistent sightings in some areas. The closures affect fisheries with open seasons: snow crab, toad crab, rock crab, lobster, whelk, Greenland halibut (fixed gear), winter flounder (fixed gear), bait (fixed gear), and herring (trap net). Closures will also be in effect for Atlantic halibut (fixed gear), mackerel (gillnet) and herring (gillnet) when gear is left unattended. For more information, visit www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fisheries-peches/commercial-commerciale/atl-arc/narw-bnan/index-eng.html#notices.

Maine Seafood Business Wins Product of the Year Award

Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. of Topsham has won Product of the Year for their Maine Shore Dinner for 2, an award given by the Specialty Food Association. The Specialty Food Association is a membership-based trade association representing 3,500 businesses. Judges consider quality, taste, innovativeness, ingredients, merchandisability, and best in class when determining finalists through a blind tasting. The Maine Shore Dinner for 2 includes two lobster tails, one dozen mussels, eight shrimp, eight sea scallops, and two ears of cornpackaged in a large foil bag that can be cooked on the grill or in the oven.

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