THE National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow has been awarded funding of £3 million to pilot a sea-based container site, the Western Morning News reported yesterday.
Bosses at the Cornish hatchery said the cash from Innovate UK and BBSRC will help make a series of breakthroughs in the science and technology associated with lobster culture.
It is hoped this will help Europe catch up with the rest of the world in terms of growing its own seafood.
The three-year project, known as Lobster Grower 2, will focus on the European lobster by developing the technology and science for growing lobsters at sea.
The hope is that an industry will develop, providing a new product, with a separate market from that supplied by the fishery.
Other partners in the project include the University of Exeter, Westcountry Mussels of Fowey, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and Falmouth University.
The lead researcher for the National Lobster Hatchery, Dr Carly Daniels (pictured), said: ‘This is the biggest lobster aquaculture research project taking place in Europe at the moment and it’s fantastic that it’s happening here in Cornwall, where it will generate scientific jobs and intellectual capital.
‘Europe is rapidly falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to growing its own seafood and this project is vital in addressing that imbalance.
‘A key component is that lobsters will be grown in systems with no artificial feed inputs.
‘This means that some of the broader sustainability issues sometimes associated with aquaculture do not apply.
‘In a nutshell we are assessing whether it is possible to grow one of the most valuable species of seafood in the UK, using similar approaches to those used to grow low value species in passive, environmentally friendly systems.’
The project will use a sea-based container culture approach (SBCC) specifically developed for the species, in an early stage project, to assess performance and develop holistic application of the systems.
It will run a pilot scale lobster culture site to gather practical, operational, environmental, biological, engineering and economic data that can be used to develop an essential tool to encourage and inform future investment. In terms of environmental credentials, farmed fish and seafood has received its fair share of bad press.
Dom Boothroyd, general manager of the National Lobster Hatchery, said: ‘This project represents a huge step forward for the charity.
‘Firstly, it will test and develop the technology needed to grow lobsters to a greater age before releasing them into the sea to enhance wild stocks.
‘Secondly, it will help us to generate the intellectual property that will, in the future, help fund the charity’s important research conservation and education work.’
Fowey based Westcountry Mussels started farming rope grown mussels in estuaries 25 years ago and were approached by the National Lobster Hatchery six years ago to help with the first SBCC trials at their site in St Austell bay.
‘Our site was unique in England for the quality of the water, which is essential for both lobsters and top quality mussels,’ said Westcountry Mussels owner Gary Rawle.
‘We believe this is a great opportunity for a wide and diverse skill set to come together and try something that only a few years ago would have been impossible, yet could now become the future for both lobster farming and enhancing wild stock.’