The lobster population is in decline. There are too many people eating too few wild lobsters. But I'm not here to suggest you change your diet and stop eating lobsters. I'm here with a solution: lobster hatcheries.
Read on to find out what a lobster hatchery is, why we need, and how you can get involved.
What Is a Lobster Hatchery?
A lobster hatchery is a controlled environment in which lobsters are spawned, hatched, and cared for. The lobsters are then released to improve the wild stock at a size where they can protect themselves and grow.
Are There Downsides to Breeding Lobsters in Captivity?
The only downside to breeding lobsters in captivity is the space, energy, and equipment needed for those kept past the larvae stage.
When lobsters reach the juvenile stage (or stage 4) the area they require dramatically increases from when they were larvae. This is because lobsters are inherently cannibalistic, so must all be separated.
But, from the point of view of the lobsters, there are no downsides! They have a far better chance of reaching adulthood when they are bred in captivity.
Why Do We Need Lobster Hatcheries?
We have destroyed much of the nursery habitat for fish and crustaceans by polluting the shore waters where they usually exist.
Lobsters are already fighting the odds to survive. Without their nursery habitats, less and less lobsters are reaching adulthood and the population is decreasing.
As a result, the lobster fishing industry is collapsing. The average fisherman is putting out twice as many traps to catch half as many lobsters as they did 5 years ago. With no human input, the UK lobster industry will eventually collapse, causing hundreds to lose their jobs and livelihoods.
Already, fishermen are being forced into deeper waters and further away from the coast, meaning that trips are becoming longer and more expensive. Although there was a brief respite during COVID when fishing effectively came to a stop, I could not prevent this inevitable decline.
A lobster hatchery, however, can prevent this decline. They dramatically increase the survival rate of juvenile lobsters, far above the rate you see in the wild.
How Many Lobster Eggs Survive?
Each female lobster can carry between 10,000-100,000 eggs. On average, only two of these eggs will reach adulthood.
Why Is There a Lobster Shortage?
With each female only producing two adult lobsters (effectively creating a 1:1 replacement within the population) there is a very fine balance. Any disturbance to this, for example, by fishing a female before it has bred, will naturally cause a population decline.
The Importance of Aquaculture Education
Lobster hatcheries have a second, essential purpose. Besides increasing the lobster population, they educate the public.
It is important for people to understand why we need hatcheries and why they are beneficial, especially since lobsters are not a widely understood species.
When you can see the complex lifecycle of a species, you start to understand the challenges they face between egg and adult. Most people have no concept of how fragile crustacean babies are and how pristine of an environment they need to survive.
I hope that the next generation will have a better understanding of British sea life than the previous generation, and therefore will create fewer problems and form more solutions.
If you want to get involved, either in funding this vital work or learning a little more about British sea life, check out Whitby Lobster Hatchery.
They are a small team working to create a sustainable future for the Yorkshire coastline. They are doing this by aiming to release up to 100,000 juvenile lobsters into the ocean every single year.
Whitby is also a key site for marine habitat research. Their state-of-the-art hatchery will serve as a research institute for local university students to partake in internship programs and gain brilliant experience working with industry leaders.
To make sure there are always plenty more crustaceans in the sea, we need to increase awareness, research, educate, and breed lobsters to be released back into the wild.