The National Lobster Hatchery’s mission:
“To promote the concept of sustainability in fisheries and aquaculture and to improve the long term productivity of the lobster fishery for all, through an active stock enhancement programme”.–The National Lobster Hatchery
Most people know us for our lobster stock enhancement programme and enjoy seeing our baby lobsters growing up in the hatchery ready to be released. This is a very important part of our work but it’s important to understand that this is just one example of a successful fisheries management tool to help sustain the future of our seas and the coastal communities that rely on the fishery for their livelihood.
Education is crucial in creating the change in consumer choice. If we only buy sustainably caught seafood, then we are eliminating the demand for fishing practices that damage the marine eco-system, giving the oceans a chance to recover. To read more see our Education Page.
Our research has gone from strength to strength and we are now internationally recognised as a centre of expertise on the European Lobster. Since opening in 2000 our research has focused on developing the techniques and know-how to grow lobsters from egg to the juvenile stages, in terms of diet, disease and habitat preference. We are now supporting Masters and PhD projects looking at some exciting developments for our future like the potential of container culture and population genetics. To read more see our Research Page.
Conserving Lobsters in Cornwall – The National Lobster Hatchery Process
The process usually starts with a phone call from a fisherman to let us know they have landed a female with eggs. If we have room for the mother to be, we will arrange for her arrival and prepare a tank.
The female lobster will be kept until the eggs hatch, this usually happens at night. The baby lobsters (known as larvae) swim off from their mother and are collected by hatchery staff the next morning.
The larvae (which look different from their parents) are then transferred to special rearing tanks where they are fed on plankton. As they grow, they have to shed their shells (known as moulting) after around two weeks they reach their third moult, now they start to look like their parents, and the technicians in the lab need to separate them into individual rearing compartments as they become very aggressive and would fight and kill each other if they could.
During the rearing process the water must be kept perfectly clean if the lobsters are to thrive, our technicians make sure that the water is well filtered and carry out daily tests of the water quality in our lab. In the wild, hardly any of the lobsters would survive the first two weeks, much less than one percent. In a lobster hatchery like ours, over 40% of the young can be expected to survive.
After around three months, the lobsters are tough enough to look after themselves. They are then released back into the wild around the coast of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, in areas where they have the best chance of survival.
To find out how and where we release our lobsters go to our Lobster Releases Page.