AN OVERVIEW OF THE FISHERY & BRITISH HATCHERIES that are currently operating stock enhancement programmes (by Dom Boothroyd 2007)


The hatchery currently operates as a charity and began operating as such in 2004. Prior to this we operated as a not for profit company. We are not just a stock enhancement programme and have three primary charitable outputs:

1 Stock enhancement

2 Formal and informal education

3 Research

We were initially set up as a pilot scheme to assess whether such an organisation could be self supporting and generate sufficient revenue in order to continue operating.

Background and history

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the fishery around Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly saw a declining catch despite increasing fishing effort. Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee, responsible for fisheries management out to six miles, decided to take a multi-dimensional and proactive approach to managing stocks. In 1994 a bye law raised the minimum landing size slowly to 90mm (above the European and National minimum landing size) and closed the fishery for egg bearing (berried hen) lobsters and Crayfish. Local and national legislation prevented the taking of V notched lobsters. Edwin Derriman (Chief Fisheries Officer) for CIFCA proposed the hatchery, as an additional safeguard to conserve our stocks.

Capital funds were raised from a variety of sources including RDA, Cornwall County Council, Tesco and ERDF. The hatchery was purpose built and located on the quay in Padstow in 2000. Operational costs were to be supported by the visitor centre, shop and research funding.

In summer 2017 our second hatchery at Newlyn Harbour was installed with the help of Shellfish Hatchery Systems Ltd. Funding from the Marine Management Organisation and European Maritime & Fisheries Fund has allowed the hatchery to be designed and built. It will provide our wild lobster stock enhancement programme with up to 20,000 juveniles per year.

The hatchery itself is located within two shipping containers and is fitted with the most up to date lobster rearing equipment. Unfortunately this facility is not open to the public and serves purely to expand the amount of lobsters we are able to rear each year. However, the hatching and rearing process in Newlyn is almost identical to the Padstow hatchery, which is open to visitors year round.

The current state of the fishery around the region (Ref: Cornwall Sea Fisheries shellfish stock survey 2003 – 2006)

Cornwall has the longest coastline of any county in the UK at 326 miles. It also has 49 ports, many of which are tidal and completely dry out on low tide. This creates obvious restrictions to fishing vessel size and coupled with the scarcity of fish markets and the long distances between them, means that fishing for shellfish is often the best option for fishermen and the majority of the inshore fleet is involved in the fishery, either as a targeted species, seasonally or as by-catch.

The county has about 10% of the UK’s under 10m vessels, roughly equating to about 600; approximately 500 of which are under 10m vessels. Total landings of fish in the county have a value of about £30 million and Newlyn is one of the biggest English ports with annual landings of about £19 million.

Fishing vessels mostly fall within the 7-11m range, working 400–1000 pots, typically crewed by two or three fishermen. Potting tends to be quite seasonal along the exposed North Coast with the majority of effort taking place in spring and summer. Effort is controlled by a permit system and there are currently just over 400 permits for just under ½ a million pots.

Value of lobster catches within the region are estimated at just under £1.8 million from CSFC data (however, there is a discrepancy between DEFRA and CFC data) and this figure is derived from permit returns and so does not necessarily represent the complete value of the fishery.

Lobster sizes around the coast are most frequently between 80-85mm carapace length, (sampling done in collaboration with stakeholders using potting boats). Generally sizes increase, moving away from the shore and also increase gradually, moving in a westerly direction along the coast.

All but two areas show a bias towards male lobsters (this is unexpected). Berried females have a noticeable annual cycle. During June, July and August there is a decline in % of females being recorded as berried, then a steady increase rising to a maximum in December of 72%. As sizes of females increased, so did the % with eggs up to 82% of lobsters of 135mm carapace length.

Around the region the numbers of females near to 90mm carapace length were not berried but numbers can represent a significant proportion of the overall catch in certain areas at certain times.

Cornwall Sea Fisheries data shows a decrease in fishing effort over the study period and a corresponding decrease in edible and spider crab landings………an increase in lobster landings of 31%!!!!!


There are currently three hatcheries operating in the UK and one that operates on an infrequent basis. All four hatcheries are diverse in terms of the way that they are funded, operate and in terms of their outputs. All of the hatcheries however, are trying to achieve the same thing – they are all attempting to improve the production of their local fisheries.

North Atlantic Fisheries College

The Shetland fishery peaked in the late 1960’s and late 1950’s at about 180 tonnes per annum and have declined since then to current levels of under 20 tonnes.

There has been a hatchery in operation in Shetland since 1996. The North Atlantic Fisheries College launched a pilot scale project and released a total of 30,000 juveniles between 1996 and 1998 and the project was shut down due to a lack of funding and space.

The project started up again as part of the marine hatcheries work at NAFC in 2000 and now operates according to the availability of staff and funding. The hatchery has however been very successful and has released an additional 28,000 since 2000.

Orkney Lobster Hatchery

The Orkney Lobster Hatchery is the UK’s largest hatchery. It’s located in an old quarry which at one stage was used in Halibut farming trials. The hatchery has two great advantages:-

1 It has a ready supply of excellent quality, water and

2 It is adjacent to a shellfish wholesaler and therefore has a constant supply of quality broodstock, which enables them to select only the best quality eggs for use as raw materials.

The hatchery has been operating since 1995 and was rebuilt in 2003. The hatchery releases about 60,000 juveniles per year, (in fact 80,000 in 2008) with the primary aim of creating a sustainable fishery around the Orkney Islands.

Orkney Sustainable Fisheries manages and funds the hatchery. The organisation was formed in 2006 and is made up of fish merchants and local fishermen groups. The organisation was formed to ensure that the hatchery could continue to be successful and also to promote sustainable fishing practices. With the overreaching aim of creating a totally sustainable lobster fishery in Orkney waters.

Like Shetland, Orkney work very closely with the stakeholders and use the fishermen for deployment of their juveniles. In turn the fishermen now have confidence in the hatchery to the extent that, through the shellfish merchants, they are now prepared to see a levy for each lobster caught, to go towards the operation of the hatchery. This is a milestone for the hatchery and also a pretty incredible achievement.

Production since 2003 has substantially increased. The first hatchery produced a total of 82,000 juveniles from 1995 – 2002 and since 2003; the hatchery has produced a total of 213,400 juveniles – a significant increase.

Overall the hatchery has released a total of 255,400 lobsters into Orkney waters and additional lobsters have been sold to other regions. Anecdotally more numbers are being seen than for a long time, and also animals are being found in the inter-tidal zone, something not noted for many years.

Angelsea Sea Zoo

The Anglsea Sea Zoo in North Wales has operated as a privately owned aquarium since 1983. They opened a pilot project in 1989 and expanded the project in 2002 with the help of a grant from Objective One.

It is not restricted to just stock enhancement, it also plays a valuable role in public education with tours and interpretation to educate visitors.

In conclusion, there are a great variety of hatcheries being funded in a variety of different ways in the UK. A total of 355,000 hatchery reared lobsters have been released back into the wild between 1995 and 2007. In the last decade, lobster hatcheries have been fine tuning husbandry techniques and studying lobster habitat, diet and disease to prove the viability of stock enhancement for a sustainable fishery in the future.

The National Lobster Hatchery, South Quay, Padstow, PL28 8BL Tel: 01841 533877
Registered in England & Wales 3527313 | Registered Charity in England & Wales 1105434
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