This series of articles on lobster and their fisheries has been written by Dr Colin Bannister over the last few years for the Hatching News newsletter.  They make a really interesting read of the history of the lobster fishery and its research. For over 45 years Colin has studied the ups and downs of our fish and shellfish stocks, and their management, and in the 1980s he took part in the first large scale experiments on lobster restocking around the UK.

Dr Colin Bannister is an Emeritus scientist at CEFAS Lowestoft, Chairman of the Shellfish Association, former CEFAS Advisor on fisheries and shellfisheries management and member of the National Lobster Hatchery Scientific Committee.  These are his views and opinions, and not the formal policies of affiliated organisations.

Secrets of the Sea 1: How quickly do lobsters grow?

The lobster is one of our most charismatic crustaceans, and this is the first of several articles about the animal, its fisheries, and about the seas around us.

Secrets of the Sea 2: Shelter is everything

This article addresses the tricky question of lobster survival. It discusses lobster biology and behaviour, the benefits of hatchery releases, and some results from previous stocking trials.

Secrets of the Sea 3: There is more to a lobster fishery than meets the eye!

I see a lobster fishery from two viewpoints. One is picturesque — a vibrant mix of harbours, potting boats, diesel fumes, and oil-skinned ‘characters’, all supported by the capture and sale of lithe blue-purple bodies with waving claws, that adorn the diner’s plate. The other viewpoint is a kaleidoscope of questions about the underwater events that occur when thousands of baited pots are scattered over the seabed among hungry lobsters. These viewpoints are entwined because the picturesque fishery depends entirely on the biology that links the lobster catch to the stock on the seabed.

Secrets of the Sea 4: Where fishing and numbers meet: stock assessment in a nutshell

Previous articles described how lobsters grow, how shelter helps lobsters of all ages to survive, and how complex behaviours could lead foraging lobsters to encounter and be caught by the many baited pots set by fishermen. This article explains the principles of assessing the status and sustainability of lobster stocks.

Secrets of the Sea 5: The state of lobster stocks and their management

These articles give readers a glimpse of the lobster biology, behaviour and metrics behind the picturesque scenes that we love to see when visiting a working fishing harbour. The previous article explained the basics of stock assessment, and this one describes the current status of English lobster stocks and their management based on the latest assessments available at the time of writing.

Secrets of the Sea 6: How climate change is impacting our seas

In recent decades, major climate changes have influenced the waters of the North East Atlantic, including the Western Approaches, and the seas around and to the north of Britain and Ireland. The effects stem from air-sea interactions that transmit the warming effect of greenhouse gases to the surface waters via large-scale patterns of atmospheric pressure and wind, producing water temperature changes that modify aspects of the marine food chain. The global nature of these changes is incontestable, but because ocean systems are complex the effects on local ecosystems and fisheries are more difficult to measure or verify. Nevertheless, pointers from both the past and the present show that warming can influence our fisheries, including those for lobster.

Secrets of the Sea 7: Does fishery management actually work?

Regular readers of this series will have noticed the many things we do NOT know about lobsters including how nature controls their number on the ground, what proportion of them interacts with pots and how efficiently pots catch lobsters, all of which make it difficult to assess stocks accurately and to calibrate how best to regulate effort. Given this uncertainty, I think it important to show readers that when accurate data IS available, the principles of managing fisheries DO work.

Copyright Dr Colin Bannister

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