The effect of timing of tagging on streamer-tag recapture rates for American lobster (Homarus americanus)


Comeau, Michel, and Manon Mallet
Cover date: 

Streamer tags are commonly used to study the ecology and population biology of the American lobster (Homarus americanus). Aquarium observations suggest that streamer tag loss, either through tag-induced mortality or tag shedding, is related to the molt stage of the lobster at the time of tagging, and the molting event itself. Tag-induced mortality, where lobsters did not molt, occurred within eleven and sixteen days following tagging for lobsters tagged in postmolt (4%) and late premolt (10%) stages, respectively; whereas no lobsters tagged in early premolt or intermolt stages died. Tag-induced mortality at time of molting was observed for lobsters tagged in late premolt stage (11%), and tag shedding was observed for lobsters tagged both in early (25%) and late premolt (11%) stages, but was significantly higher (P=0.014) for lobsters tagged in early premolt stages. Autopsies revealed that lobsters died mainly of organ perforations (hepato-pancreas and pericardial sac) following the tagging process, and rupture of the dorsal thoraco-abdominal membrane during the molting process. The total tag loss was estimated at 4% for lobsters tagged after molting, and 27% and 31% for lobsters tagged in early and late premolt stages, respectively. There was no tag loss for lobsters tagged in the intermolt stage during four months of laboratory observations (July−October). To minimize streamer tag loss, lobsters should be tagged during the intermolt or postmolt stage. Based on fi eld studies, recapture rates for lobsters tagged in premolt stage are always lower than those of lobsters tagged in postmolt stage. Furthermore, recapture rates during the second year, for lobsters that molt in the year following tagging, were drastically reduced, and no lobster was recaptured after four years at large. Finally, to account for tag loss during the first year at large, a minimal adjustment of 24.9% (SD 2.9%) and 4.4% (SD 1.6%) for the recapture rate of lobsters tagged immediately before and after the molting season, respectively, is recommended. Adjustments beyond one year at large are not recommended for the American lobster at this time.