Closed for maintenance 11th - 14th December
Track your lobster

An Overview of the Fishery & British Hatcheries that are currently operating stock enhancement programmes 

by Dom Boothroyd 2007

The National Lobster Hatchery

The hatchery currently operates as a charity and began operating as such in 2004. Prior to this we operated as a not for profit company. We are not just a stock enhancement programme and have three primary charitable outputs:

  1. Stock enhancement
  2. Formal and informal education
  3. Research

We were initially set up as a pilot scheme to assess whether such an organisation could be self supporting and generate sufficient revenue in order to continue operating.

Background and history

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the fishery around Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly saw a declining catch despite increasing fishing effort. Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee, responsible for fisheries management out to six miles, decided to take a multi-dimensional and proactive approach to managing stocks. In 1994 a bye law raised the minimum landing size slowly to 90mm (above the European and National minimum landing size) and closed the fishery for egg bearing (berried hen) lobsters and Crayfish. Local and national legislation prevented the taking of V notched lobsters. Edwin Derriman (Chief Fisheries Officer) for CIFCA proposed the hatchery, as an additional safeguard to conserve our stocks.

Capital funds were raised from a variety of sources including RDA, Cornwall County Council, Tesco and ERDF. The hatchery was purpose built and located on the quay in Padstow in 2000. Operational costs were to be supported by the visitor centre, shop and research funding.

In summer 2017 our second hatchery at Newlyn Harbour was installed with the help of Shellfish Hatchery Systems Ltd. Funding from the Marine Management Organisation and European Maritime & Fisheries Fund has allowed the hatchery to be designed and built. It will provide our wild lobster stock enhancement programme with up to 20,000 juveniles per year.

The hatchery itself is located within two shipping containers and is fitted with the most up to date lobster rearing equipment. Unfortunately this facility is not open to the public and serves purely to expand the amount of lobsters we are able to rear each year. However, the hatching and rearing process in Newlyn is almost identical to the Padstow hatchery, which is open to visitors year round.

The current state of the fishery around the region 

(Ref: Cornwall Sea Fisheries shellfish stock survey 2003 – 2006)

Cornwall has the longest coastline of any county in the UK at 326 miles. It also has 49 ports, many of which are tidal and completely dry out on low tide. This creates obvious restrictions to fishing vessel size and coupled with the scarcity of fish markets and the long distances between them, means that fishing for shellfish is often the best option for fishermen and the majority of the inshore fleet is involved in the fishery, either as a targeted species, seasonally or as by-catch.

The county has about 10% of the UK’s under 10m vessels, roughly equating to about 600; approximately 500 of which are under 10m vessels. Total landings of fish in the county have a value of about £30 million and Newlyn is one of the biggest English ports with annual landings of about £19 million.

Fishing vessels mostly fall within the 7-11m range, working 400–1000 pots, typically crewed by two or three fishermen. Potting tends to be quite seasonal along the exposed North Coast with the majority of effort taking place in spring and summer. Effort is controlled by a permit system and there are currently just over 400 permits for just under ½ a million pots.

Value of lobster catches within the region are estimated at just under £1.8 million from CSFC data (however, there is a discrepancy between DEFRA and CFC data) and this figure is derived from permit returns and so does not necessarily represent the complete value of the fishery.

Lobster sizes around the coast are most frequently between 80-85mm carapace length, (sampling done in collaboration with stakeholders using potting boats). Generally sizes increase, moving away from the shore and also increase gradually, moving in a westerly direction along the coast.

All but two areas show a bias towards male lobsters (this is unexpected). Berried females have a noticeable annual cycle. During June, July and August there is a decline in % of females being recorded as berried, then a steady increase rising to a maximum in December of 72%. As sizes of females increased, so did the % with eggs up to 82% of lobsters of 135mm carapace length.

Around the region the numbers of females near to 90mm carapace length were not berried but numbers can represent a significant proportion of the overall catch in certain areas at certain times.

Cornwall Sea Fisheries data shows a decrease in fishing effort over the study period and a corresponding decrease in edible and spider crab landings………an increase in lobster landings of 31%!!!!!