Shellfish Decapod Crustacean Welfare Policy

Macduff Shellfish Decapod Crustacean Welfare Policy

July 2023

In April 2022 the UK Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act was passed which legally recognised decapod crustaceans as sentient animals capable of feeling pain, distress and discomfort. 

Management Commitment & Policy

At Macduff we believe that decapod crustacea are sentient beings, that their humane treatment is vital, and that consideration of the welfare of crabs and lobster is an important aspect of handling and dispatching them.  We have long recognised the importance of appropriate practices for both ethical and product quality reasons. We are committed to ensuring the welfare of the decapod crustacea we handle. We endeavour to employ practices designed to reduce stress to decapods going at all stages through our company.  

This welfare policy applies to all brown crab and lobster from all geographies, dealt with by the company in all our UK operations, covering all product formats in all Macduff Shellfish, Clearwater Seafoods and own brand packaging.

We recognise that decapod crustacea have species-specific needs that must be met during post capture, transport and holding for processing that take account of each species’ physical, physiological and behavioural needs. We have worked to ensure that crab and lobster at each part of the process from being received to dispatch are handled, transported, held and dispatched appropriately and in conditions appropriate to their species to ensure their welfare and minimise mortality.  


Macduff understands that for transport of decapod crustaceans, environmental conditions and maximum transport length are species-specific, dependent on the length of transport and must take into account other factors that vary by season (temperature, moult stage, etc.). Generally, we have two types of transport based on duration that dictate suitable environmental conditions to ensure maintenance of health and quality and to minimise physiological stress. Short term transport is best accomplished in air (emersion) in which the crustaceans are kept in a stable, high humidity, chilled environment to avoid elevated metabolic stress and to maintain gas and ion exchange at natural levels.

Longer term transport is best accomplished with immersion systems in which the water quality is managed by temperature control, aeration and water exchange/filtration to maintain optimum levels of temperature, oxygen and water nitrogen. In general, we ensure that in air and water the environmental temperature must be at or below the animals’ acclimation levels but above freezing, high humidity with protection from wind or sun if emersed, and oxygen levels above 75% saturation in water, and at 90% or more of ambient air oxygen levels.

For information on how the ecology and physiology of brown crab and lobster influence their response to capture and live transport which Macduff has taken into consideration, you can view the SAGB Advisory Note on Crustacea Storage and Transport  here - Crustacea-Storage-and-Transport-SAGB-Advisory-Note-2021.pdf (

Live crab facility

Our Mintlaw live crab systems are one of the most advanced in the UK with regular monitoring and reporting of oxygen saturation, water temperature, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, salinity and water level to ensure that conditions are appropriate for the animal.


Macduff ensures that all brown crab are electrically stunned before cooking or processing. We have two Optimar electrical stunning machines specifically for crab incorporated into our factory and all brown crab passes through them and is electrically stunned to ensure instantaneous insensibility. We do not process or dispatch lobster at any of our sites.

We do not sell live crustaceans direct to the consumer or the public.

Governance & Management

Macduff established an Animal Welfare Committee in early 2023, with the first meeting held in June 2023.  The cross-departmental Committee with membership from operations, procurement, transport, each Macduff site around the UK (Mintlaw, Stornoway and Exeter), sales, research & development and chaired by sustainability & public affairs, has oversight of the decapod welfare policy and its implementation.

Our Director of Sustainability & Public Affairs is ultimately accountable for the decapod crustacean policy and oversight is provided by the Animal Welfare Committee. The day-to-day management of this policy and its implementation is the responsibility of our operations and transport specialists.

The Animal Welfare Committee which has established a welfare action plan and assigned responsibilities within it, will meet several times a year to monitor progress of the action plan, to hear updates from the different teams responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the welfare policy and to identify and implement appropriate actions where necessary. The Committee will monitor progress of Macduff's welfare targets and ensure that it publicly reports against these targets.

Electrical stunning targets

Macduff commits to reporting the percentage of brown crab electrically stunned prior to cooking or processing.  We commit to a target of electrically stunning 100% of brown crab across all our sites (where relevant) prior to cooking or processing. We will report through our website on the percentage of brown crab electrically stunned over a 12-month period. We will monitor this from the 1st July 2023, with regular updates to the Animal Welfare Committee and report publicly on an annual basis.

We have 2 electrical stunners in place in the factory and we expect to meet our 100% target in July 2023 and proceeding months. The operations team will have responsibility for monitoring and reporting this to the Committee.  If the target of 100% is not being met the Committee will explore reasons why and implement measures to ensure the target is met.  If the target is not met, the reason why will be presented to the Committee and recorded to be published in the annual reporting.

Future management and Industry Codes of Practice

The development of the Seafish, SAGB & CMG commissioned Welfare Codes of Practice for decapod crustacea is ongoing. Once the Codes are published the Committee will have responsibility for their implementation and for reporting on adherence to them. We will encourage businesses we sell to and buy from to adhere to these Codes and provide links to the Codes though our website. Macduff has been actively engaged in developing these codes through our Head of Sustainability & Science who is part of the Project Team leading on the development of the Codes and as an active member of the processor and transport panels, as well as our operations and R&D specialists.

Decapod Welfare Training

Macduff are committed to ensuring all employees have appropriate awareness and training regards to animal welfare.  To this end, we are in 2023 updating our training materials to include the importance of humane treatment of decapod crustacea to include why and how we address this issue at Macduff.  This material will be added to the Macduff staff training for all employees who deal with crab and/or lobster across all Macduff sites.  


Decapod welfare is a relatively new animal welfare issue with evidence on decapod welfare limited.  Research is needed to fill knowledge gaps and further develop appropriate technology to deal with decapod welfare.  At Macduff we are working on a number of projects around decapod welfare as well as encouraging others to do the same. 

We are committed to the improvement of handling and dispatch of decapods across the shellfish sector.  Our Head of Sustainability and Science chairs the UK Crab and Lobster Management Group that, together with Seafish and the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, is developing industry Codes of Practice for the handling and despatch of decapod crustacea.  The Codes of Practice will operate across the key stages of the supply chain; catching, processing, wholesale and live imports and exports.

The development and adoption of these Codes of Practice will ensure that best practice in welfare standards operate across the entire shellfish sector.  This page will be updated as this work progresses. More information can be found on the Seafish website here - Animal sentience and welfare (

Animal Welfare Week 2023

In March 2023 we participated in ‘Animal Welfare Week’, a collaboration between Marks & Spencer and Optimar bringing together key UK seafood suppliers to meet researchers, technology developers and companies addressing welfare issues in their business both on land and at sea to learn about current welfare practices and research, share best practice, information on developing technology and future needs of the seafood sector to address welfare concerns.  More information can be found here - Optimar Animal Welfare Week in Ålesund, Norway - it was a great success!

Welfare Week instigated discussion, in which Macduff were involved, on the current lack of appropriate technology for the langoustine sector in and the need for new species-specific technology to address welfare considerations.  From these discussions an innovative high level project plan was drafted with agreement that funding should be sought to carry out the research. Macduff will continue to dedicate time to this project on developing onboard stunning options for langoustine, and feed into its development where appropriate in order to advance research and the welfare of decapod crustaceans within the industry.  This page will be updated as this work progresses.


Macduff carries out internal research and development on decapod handling, storage and transport to ensure decapods are treated humanely and appropriately.  We also encourage external research and have hosted visits to our Mintlaw facility for researchers and the technology company Ace Aquatec to consider current and future technology needs and encouraged the development of innovative new technologies to address current gaps in decapod crustacean welfare technology. 

Performance Reporting & Impact

We have set the targets below which we will regularly measure throughout the year and report on publicly annually.

  • 100% of our brown crab and lobster are caught using static gear.
  • 100% of our brown crab is electrically stunned before cooking or processing.

Stay up to date

Macduff uses its social media channels to promote awareness of the development of the Codes of Practice for decapod crustacea to drive welfare improvements across the industry. Once the Codes are developed and published, we will support and promote them through our website, on social media and in meetings as well as encourage others to use them in their own business.

You can follow Macduff’s social media channels, and view our website, where we will provide updates on our decapod welfare policy and work.