Pioneering conservation, research and education charity, The National Lobster Hatchery (NLH), based in Padstow, has won the Cornwall Sustainability Award for Best Contribution Towards Creating a Sustainable Food Economy from Nature to Plate for its innovative research project, Lobster Grower 2.
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.
Until recently, the NLH reared all its lobsters in hatchery culture systems at Padstow, hatching the larvae from egg-bearing females, raising them to a juvenile stage of development, and then releasing them back into the wild.
Lobster Grower 2 is a three-year collaborative research project that aims to investigate the potential of rearing juvenile European lobsters (Homarus gammarus) to even larger sizes in an environmentally enriched sea-based container culture (SBCC) system at St Austell Bay, where they are scientifically monitored for growth, diet, survival rates and health status in order to enhance understanding and develop expertise.
Funded by Innovate UK and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Lobster Grower 2 research consortium is led by the NLH in collaboration with the University of Exeter, Westcountry Mussels of Fowey, The Centre for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and Falmouth University.
“Having already reared more than 25,000 juvenile lobsters in this way, we have learned that SBCC systems offer key benefits,” explains Lead Researcher for the NLH, Dr Carly Daniels. “Firstly, the lobsters feed on naturally occurring food sources rather than on an artificial diet of fishmeal, which can impact negatively on global fish stocks as well as the local environment. Secondly, their chances of survival are likely to be greater as they are exposed to the kind of natural conditions that they will encounter upon release. Thirdly, lower levels of energy are required to grow lobsters at sea, which potentially reduces the carbon footprint of the process. With global seafood consumption expected to rise by 8% during the next decade, this novel approach could not only promote growth in the production of the European lobster, but also stimulate sustainable aquaculture without threatening pressured natural stocks.”
“When the project ends in February 2019, we will have thousands of ecologically conditioned lobsters ready for release into the waters around Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as part of our stock enhancement programme,” adds NLH General Manager, Dom Boothroyd. “In the long term, the technology and expertise generated by Lobster Grower 2 could help develop a sustainable low carbon form of aquaculture; provide the seafood industry with a new product to complement the wild lobster fishery; stimulate prosperity in coastal communities; and generate intellectual property to fund the charity’s important research, conservation and education strands. As such, this is a huge step forward for the NLH.”
“I am very proud to be working on a project that will have a major impact on lobster stock enhancement around Cornwall,” concludes Lobster Grower 2 Project Officer, Jake Scolding. “Winning a Cornwall Sustainability Award further cements this and provides recognition that the hard work undertaken by the Lobster Grower 2 team in all weathers is more than worthwhile.”
The winners of the Cornwall Sustainability Awards were announced at an awards ceremony at The Headland Hotel in Newquay on Friday 1st December.