The National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow is a fascinating place to visit with the whole family. Open seven days a week, it attracts over 42,000 visitors a year. The National Lobster Hatchery was officially opened in 2000, in response to declining lobster stocks in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, set against a backdrop of lobster stock collapse in Scandinavia and elsewhere. Located next to the Camel Estuary, the Lobster Hatchery is on the Padstow harbour. The National Lobster Hatchery is a pioneering conservation, research and education charity that aims to conserve vulnerable lobster populations, preserve marine biodiversity and ultimately help safeguard our seafood industry and the many livelihoods it supports.
How the hatchery works
When a pregnant lobster ‘berried hen’ is caught by one of the charity’s listed fisherman, she is brought to the hatchery’s maternity ward. Female lobsters carry their eggs under their abdomen for up to a year before releasing them. In the maternity unit the babies hatch from their mothers and are transferred into special rearing cones. After about two weeks, and having moulted three times, the lobster larvae start to look a bit more like their parents. At this stage they are transferred in to individual rearing compartments to develop further. It’s essential they are kept separate because lobster’s are cannibalistic creatures prone to taking chunks out of one another. A female lobster will carry in the region of 20,000 eggs, however in the wild only 1 of these is expected to survive. In the hatchery however, this survival rate is more likely to be 1 in 20, an increase of around 1,000 times. Clare tells us ‘The NLH has released over 172,000 lobsters since opening and our research and techniques are advancing and improving all the time. By September of this year alone we’ve already released 50,000 baby lobsters, making it our most successful year to date’ After around 6 – 8 weeks of living in the hatchery the lobsters are ready to be released back into the wild. By now the lobsters are ‘benthic’ and will burrow into the ground, making them less vulnerable to predation and increasing their chances of survival.
Whilst lobsters may not be the cutest sea creatures, the work being done at the Lobster Hatchery is incredibly important for Cornwall’s marine ecosystems and it is helping to safeguard the future of our seafood industry and coastal communities. Make sure you pay a visit next time you’re in the area.
The National Lobster Hatchery is open from 10am, seven days a week. Admissions costs £3.75 per adult, £1.50 per child (5 and upwards), £2.50 for seniors and a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) is £8.
Join us at The Beach Hut for Lobster Friday on September 19th!