The National Lobster Hatchery is a marine conservation, research and education charity based in Padstow, Cornwall, UK. What makes us unique is that our work is specifically related to a commercial species – The European Lobster and in the last few years we have successfully established ourselves as a centre of expertise on a global scale.
Lobster is worth a huge amount in terms of both its economic and social importance. Consequently they are subject to considerable fishing pressure and vulnerable to catastrophic stock collapse. Both the Scandinavian and Mediterranean stocks have completely collapsed and not recovered to this day .
The species is the most valuable fish caught in the UK and is part of a major export industry. This one species alone is worth £30m each year and I know that without it, the small coastal communities would have very little, other than tourism, to create jobs and keep the harbour alive.
The problem is one of global food security for future generations and the timescale is scarily short. Fisheries around the world are suffering from major over-exploitation. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations state that over 75% of the world’s major fisheries are either: fully exploited, over-exploited, depleted or recovering.
Of course mans impact on our marine resources is a much wider problem than just lobsters and our visitor centre hopes to broaden our message to address the key sustainability issues faced by our coastal fisheries and provide some clear solutions to these issues.
The world population is set to rise to over 9 billion over the next few decades. The world’s middle classes are due to swell and the demand for seafood is due to expand massively.
It is clear that additional measures are required in order to improve the way we treat our living marine resources and this is why our work is so important .
We have already established ourselves as a centre for excellence in lobster science – we have published numerous papers and presented our work on the world stage and welcome over 40,000 visitors through our public education centre each year .
A female lobster can carry in the region of 20,000 eggs under their abdomen, however only one of these is expected to survive in the wild. With skilful and careful application of modern technology we can improve this survival rate by about 1000 times! We released over 53,000 juvenile lobsters in 2014 and aim to increase this number over time. We are even undertaking a population modelling exercise that will help us to define how many lobsters we should release in a given year.
How can our charity compete with the humanitarian charities? The answer is simple: give a man a fish and he can feed his family for a day, give him a fishing net and he can feed his family for a month. However, if the seas around his village have been overfished then he can do neither.
–Dom Boothroyd, National Lobster Hatchery