Project unlocks lobster rearing potential

Dr Carly Daniels of the National Lobster Hatchery led the project

A PIONEERING project rearing lobsters in new sea based systems has shown great potential, say the partners involved.

Led by the National Lobster Hatchery (NLH) in Padstow, Cornwall, the three-year initiative – named Lobster Grower 2 (LG2) – used sea based container culture systems, which required no feed inputs.

More than 26,000 lobsters were deployed into culture containers in St Austell Bay, and were monitored to determine production success.

The scheme, which is now complete, accumulated the world’s largest data set detailing the development of European lobster juveniles, with the collection of over 48,000 observations of survival and 15,300 measurements of growth.

It will be invaluable to both industry development and future research, said the NLH’s consortium partners who include the University of Exeter, Westcountry Mussels of Fowey, Cefas (the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science), and Falmouth University.

The consortium also undertook research studying the diet of these early stage lobsters by examining the assemblages of organisms fouling the culture containers (from which the lobsters feed off) as well as analysis of the gut content of the lobsters.

The group said LG2 has unlocked the secrets to lobster aquaculture by identifying the key barriers to commercial realisation.

Carly Daniels, principal investigator of LG2 and head of Production, Science and Development for the NLH, said: ‘The pinch points highlighted through LG2, including the prohibitive cost of lobster juvenile seed, gives lobster aquaculture innovation a clear direction that has transferable outcomes to improving stock enhancement and aquaculture alike.

‘LG2 has helped make key advances in lobster aquaculture with the vision to making lobster aquaculture a viable venture by 2030.

‘It has also generated a wealth of knowledge relating to the development of early life stages in the wild – an area which has baffled marine biologists for years.’

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The NLH’s chief operating officer, Trevor Broome, said: ‘The outcomes of LG2 have paved the way for future research at the NLH, and have generated a number of angles which the team are eager to take forward.’

One such research angle will help validate the NLH lobster stock enhancement work undertaken around the Cornish coast.

Daniels said: ‘LG2 has given us a unique opportunity, we have thousands of one, two and three-year-old lobsters on-grown at sea which are now ready for release.

‘Having been reared at sea, these lobsters have acclimatised to life in the ocean, giving them an excellent chance of surviving and enhancing the local lobster fishery.

‘The ability to compare these on-grown lobsters against those released directly from the hatchery at younger ages will also help us to inform our release strategy.’

The LG2 project was funded by Innovate UK, BBSRC and the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers.

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