American Lobster – A threat against the European Lobster?

-Christoffer Nilsson


If the lobsters were to be transported frozen by ships instead of live by airfreight, emissions could be significant reduced. It would also reduce the risk of out-competing the European lobster and eliminate the risk of spreading diseases.

American lobsters are imported in great numbers to the European market and only in Sweden about 2-300 tons live lobsters are imported each year. The American export market is worth about 200 million dollars each year.

Since the lobsters are exported live, they must be kept alive in tanks or by other means. When they are sold to restaurants in Sweden they are sometimes kept in cages or nets in the ocean on the West coast of Sweden even though it is illegal to do so. Since 2008 around 36 American lobsters have been caught or found out in the wild and researchers believe that they have escaped from the illegal cages/nets.

Since the American lobster is a different species than the European lobster, researchers fear that they will carry diseases and/or parasites, which can have a great impact on the European lobster population. Researchers have also found that the different species can mate with each other and create hybrids. Researchers at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen have been able to prove that both male and female hybrids have in some cases become fertile. This is believed to be a serious threat against the European lobster since both the American lobster and the hybrids may out-compete the native European lobster.

The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management is working for a ban on the import of the American lobster, which will eliminate the problem before it is too late. During the spring of 2016 Sweden handed in a proposition to the European commission suggesting to include the American lobster on the list of invasive species. This list is a part of the EU-commission regulation 1143/2014 which main purpose is to address “the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species” (EU Regulation 1143/2014 on Invasive Alien Species page.1). This regulation entered into force the 1st of January 2015.

The proposition was unfortunately turned down by the European commission, which did not assess this as a serious problem.
If you catch an American lobster in Sweden you should immediately call “The institute of marine research, SLU” in Lysekil, they will then arrange for a pick-up of the lobster and you will be rewarded with 500-1000SEK depending on size of the lobster. The largest one reported so far weighed about 2kg which is a quite large lobster. I think that the only solution to restrict the spreading of the American lobster is to prohibit import of live lobsters from America.



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