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.
“From the window of Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Port Isaac, I watch local fishermen as they gather lobsters from their pots. For me and many like me, lobster is one of the most luxurious and enjoyable seafoods available. However, if something isn’t done to protect lobster stocks, in a relatively short time, these things will just be memories.
The National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow is committed to protecting and increasing lobster stocks but they are also conducting valuable research in marine biology and spreading their message by providing education both for those in the industry and the general public. Their commitment and dedication is unwavering and working with local fishermen, they have already made a significant contribution to the increase of lobster stocks in the area. However, the issue is enormous and not just restricted to North Cornwall. More needs to be done and if anyone can do it, they will!
I am proud to be an NLH Patron and would urge anyone who is interested in marine biology and sustainability, or who merely wants to continue to enjoy eating seafood in years to come, to support this worthy cause.”Nathan Outlaw