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‘He’s your lobster!’

Today the masters students taking the marine conservation module hit the road to go visit the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow. Padstow has earnt the amusing nickname ‘Padstein’ due to Rick Stein’s involvement in buying up the local area, and has put its seafood firmly on the foodies map. The demand for seafood is putting lobster populations under severe pressure, in fact in Norway the stocks have collapsed completely. There is now research looking at introducing some of our Cornish lobsters back up to Norway. The economic importance of the seafood industry is massive, and the effects on livelihoods in the UK are far-reaching, so it is in everyone’s interests to find a sustainable solution. Lobster fry are pretty pathetic in the wild and are more often than not dinner for other marine creatures. The juveniles are also slow growing, and can only grow between moults. A lobster can grow up to 25% bigger each moult! For these reasons the wild stocks could do with a helping hand…

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So how does the hatchery work? Females carrying eggs are brought in by fishermen or selected from a wholesaler; it is otherwise illegal to remove berried hens from the ocean. If the eggs are red it means they are almost ready to hatch and the hatchery will prioritise them. If they are black however, they will be put on ice to slow down development until there is space at the hatchery. The female lobsters are given back to the fishermen to either sell, or put back to sea to grow a bit bigger. Some fishermen put a v-notch in the tail meaning they cannot legally be caught until the notch has grown out and they are at an appropriate size. Once the eggs hatch they grow into juveniles in a cone shaped apparatus filled with flowing water to simulate as natural conditions as possible. Only about 20% survive this stage as (unfortunately for us) they are cannibalistic! The bad-ass lobbies that make it through are released from the hatchery at about 3 months old by divers and fishermen. It is difficult to quantify a return on effort investment (tracking tiny lobsters is currently impractical), but anecdotally fishermen have reported more landings.

Cones growing up juveniles

Cones growing up juveniles

sometimes it pays to go with the flow

sometimes it pays to go with the flow

maternity ward for females before being handed back to the fishermen. Notice the claws are taped to prevent fights...

maternity ward for females before being handed back to the fishermen. Notice the claws are taped to prevent fights…

Meet Claudia, she came with no claws (they aren't sure why) and had to be put in isolation as the others kept bullying her!

Meet Claudia, she came with no claws (they aren’t sure why) and had to be put in isolation as the others kept bullying her!

juveniles separated pre-release

juveniles separated pre-release

The hatchery is also involved in research such as optimising juvenile growth conditions, genetics work, and creating a sort of lobster farm out at sea. The later would be the natural progression for the project and is envisaged to be in a cage stacking lobsters in dairylea type triangles ( separately to reduce munching tendencies!) To find out more please see: http://www.nationallobsterhatchery.co.uk/whats-it-all-about/marine-conservation/behind-the-scenes/ Seeing all the work that goes into this process really makes you think before you indulge in a bit of lobster luxury.

a very rare white lobster morph, typically they are blue-grey (til they are cooked!)

a very rare white lobster morph, typically they are blue-grey (til they are cooked!)

spot the baby cuttlefish

spot the baby cuttlefish

spider crab, spider crab, does what ever a spider crab does...

spider crab, spider crab, does what ever a spider crab does…

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