THE National Lobster Hatchery (NLH) in Padstow, Cornwall, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support marine conservation and the future of our fisheries.
The ‘Releasing Larry’ campaign (www.crowdfunder.co.uk/releasinglarry) aims to raise the funds required to release thousands of one- to three-year-old lobsters around the coast of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Over the last 20 years, the NLH has released more than 250,000in long (two- to three month-old) baby lobsters back into the wild, to help conserve vulnerable lobster populations.
The Releasing Larry campaign will enable the charity to start assessing and refining its innovative stock enhancement work.
Following the successful completion of the Lobster Grower 2 (LG2) project, the NLH now has thousands of carefully nurtured, hand sized lobsters, growing in environmentally enriched sea based homes.
The LG2 project was globally recognised as leading the field in sea based lobster aquaculture, and during its three-year run time, was the largest lobster research project in Europe.
The sea based systems in which the lobsters were reared provided a transition step between the hatchery and the wild, producing larger, fitter, healthier lobsters that will therefore have a better chance of survival following release, said the NLH.
Getting these eco-conditioned lobsters off their mariculture site and out to the wild will not only enhance local populations, but will open up a huge range of research opportunities in tracking their progress.
To fully implement this project, the NLH needs to raise £40,000 which will cover costs.
These include the hiring of specialised vessels which are capable of hauling and handling the sea based systems used to grow the lobsters; and employing qualified crew with technical expertise to remove lobsters from the containers at sea, undertake scientific data collection to inform release strategies and prepare the lobsters for transportation to the release sites.
There are also costs associated with transportation of the lobsters to release sites across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
These include a land based team of lobster experts to monitor and care for the lobsters on their journey, temperature controlled equipment and facilities to ensure lobster survival on land, as well as the further associated costs of release.
And funds are needed to for the cleaning and recycling of the sea based systems so that they can be re-used in the future.
Dr Carly Daniels, head of production, science and development at the NLH, said: ‘These enigmatic creatures may not be cute to the untrained eye but with the public’s help, we can ensure these charismatic crustaceans have the best chance of survival and are returned to the wild to help support the sustainability of their natural populations.’
Trevor Broome, chief pperating officer, added: ‘By donating £30, the price of ordering a lobster in a restaurant, you will be doing your bit by putting a two-year-old lobster back into the wild.
‘Supporting the sustainability of the natural stocks is of vital importance for future generations, especially in the supporting of livelihoods in vulnerable coastal communities, and any donations, however small, will go directly towards this mission.’
The NLH is offering rewards for donations to the Releasing Larry campaign, which went live on August 12 and has already received support.
Rewards include a virtual lobster kiss for a £10 donation and the release of a three-year-old lobster for a £50 donation.
For exceptionally big donations, the NLH is offering the chance to learn how to grow lobsters by shadowing a hatchery technician, as well as attending a juvenile lobster release with the NLH research team.
The Releasing Larry campaign will be active until the beginning of October. For further information or to make a donation, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/releasinglarry.