Pioneering conservation, research and education charity, The National Lobster Hatchery (NLH), based in Padstow, has welcomed a captivating creature from the deep – a colossal crustacean – to its Visitor Centre for tourists and local residents to meet and marvel at during next week’s half-term.
Caught by local fisherman, John Hayes off inshore rocks south east of Portscatho/ Gerrans Bay in South Cornwall and donated by Cornish fishmonger, Wing of St Mawes (thecornishfishmonger.co.uk), this humongous Homarus gammarus (European lobster), weighing in at a magnificent 9.8lb and measuring around 3ft, is a force to be reckoned with and is in need of a name.
“Visitors to the Hatchery during half-term week will be given the special job of coming up with a suitable name for this significant sea-creature, who is currently eating us out of house and home,” explains new Operations Manager, Trevor Broome. “At this rate, we will be launching a campaign to fund his appetite for mussels! After half-term, we will review the contents of the suggestion box and award a prize for the most imaginative.”
Researchers at the charity have been attempting to determine the age of this spectacular shellfish.
“Aging lobsters is notoriously difficult, especially towards the older and larger end of the scale, since they are much rarer,” explains Adam Bates who is a researcher at the NLH. “A cautious estimate would place him at 40 to 50 years old, but it is not inconceivable that he is well into his 80s. As a hatchling of the 1930s, he could therefore have experienced World War II, or been one of the first to see Mickey Mouse at the cinema! It’s amazing to think how long he has survived and thrived in the ocean.”
The NLH operates a stock enhancement programme that encourages scientists and fishermen to co-develop rearing processes that will enhance the lobster fishery in and around Cornwall, in support of fragile coastal economies and in response to soaring global demand for seafood.
Rearing lobsters in hatchery culture systems from larvae that are naturally hatched by egg-bearing females and raising them to a juvenile stage of development, the NLH then releases them back into the wild.
“Our research shows that older female lobsters yield more eggs that are of better quality, so more of their eggs are likely to survive to adulthood both in the hatchery and their natural habitat,” explains NLH General Manager, Dominic Boothroyd. “We are grateful to Wing of St Mawes for donating this majestic male of the species to observe and learn from before we release him back into Cornish waters this summer.”
To find out about opening times at the National Lobster Hatchery during half-term, please visit nationallobsterhatchery.co.uk/visitor-centre/