Lobsters are fascinating creatures that symbolise strength and resilience in Cornish culture. We wanted to learn more about our crustacean friends, and so we set sail to Padstow for the day to Cornwall’s National Lobster Hatchery.
The Lobster Hatchery charity was founded in 1998, and in 2000, the visitor centre opened to the public with the aim of protecting and conserving lobsters and to ensure that they continue to reproduce at a steady pace.
How does the Lobster Hatchery work?
Falmouth’s local fishermen bring in pregnant berried hen lobsters to the hatchery, being one of the only people with legal licences to land pregnant lobsters since 2016. These lobsters stay on a maternity ward for six to eight weeks while their eggs mature, as they go from a black hue to a reddish hue over the course of three to four days. The red hue indicates that they are ready to hatch! Exciting times.
With the indication that these eggs are ready to hatch, the hatchery expects over 20,000 eggs to be under one lobster - and 100 will typically survive in the wild. Whilst pregnant lobsters are rehabilitated at the Hatchery their chances of survival increase by 100% due to specialised temperature control of water when eggs hatch.
Baby lobsters, (otherwise known as Bugs) are attracted to the light upon birth and take around 7 years to grow to full (landing) size.
How is this helping conservation?
The once postpartum lobsters now get taken straight back to their habitat by the fishermen, whilst larvae are kept in tanks for 14 days to protect and mature in an aqua hive tray with pipettes and released once ready spontaneously into different locations to rewild them.
The Lobster Hatchery also works with many different types of research centres such as Exeter University and University of East Anglia to better understand a lobster’s life, how they breed and the dynamics and inner workings of their population. As with any conservation plan or programme, potential problems can arrive, and it’s important that we know what those can be.
In England it is illegal to land (to catch and bring into land) a female lobster or crawfish with eggs on. So if too many male lobsters land, this could cause problems with reproducing in the future, and so when pregnant lobsters are observed and their eggs are mature, it’s important that their genetic make-up isn’t tampered with.
This means, in essence, ensuring siblings don’t reproduce with one-another. The Hatchery tackles this through releasing sets of siblings at a time, in a carefully controlled environment helping natural stocks keep up with the pace of fisheries.
When Lobsters are released, they become very territorial of their sea and land and end up fighting one another in order to protect their homes.
The problem with this, is lobsters end up being alone, due to moving so far. Fun fact: people think that Lobsters don’t move very far, but one Lobster from the Hatchery was found through their online tracker to have gone from Falmouth Harbour to Lands’s End in a day!
The National Lobster Hatchery mainly gets funding through the visitor centre, and through small elements of adoption marketing. For instance, they do a BOSOF deal, which means Buy one, set one free. This helps to keep the population flowing back to the sea at a steady pace, whilst raising funds to do so.
How can you help?
Why not visit the Lobster Hatchery on your next free day? You can even adopt a Lobster in your name, in the name of conservation!
£4 - Single
£8 - Sweetheart
£12 - Family