Stunning of edible crustaceans to reduce sensory perception prior and during slaughter is an important topic in animal welfare. The purpose of this project was to determine how neural circuits were affected during stunning by examining the physiological function of neural circuits. The central nervous system circuit to a cardiac or skeletal muscle response was examined. Three commercially important crustacean species were utilized for stunning by immersion in an ice slurry below 4 °C and by electrocution; both practices are used in the seafood industry. The blue crab (Callinectes sapidus), the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), and the whiteleg shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) responded differently to stunning by cold and electric shock. Immersion in ice slurry induced sedation within seconds in crayfish and shrimp but not crabs and cardiac function was reduced fastest in shrimp. However, crabs could retain a functional neural circuit over the same time when shrimp and crayfish were nonresponsive. An electroshock of 10 s paralyzed all three species and subsequently decreased heart rate within 1 min and then heart rate increased but resulted in irregularity over time. Further research is needed to study a state of responsiveness by these methods.
Keywords: blue crab; crayfish; electric stunning; euthanasia; icing; shrimp.