Success Stories

Orkney's Lobster Hatchery

Development of the Aquahive® and Orkney Lobster Hatchery.

Shellfish Hatchery Systems Ltd. have been involved with the Orkney Lobster Hatchery for over a decade.

Originally, the hatchery focused on research and released a respectable 3,000 - 6,000 lobsters each year. However, after breakthroughs in feeding and system design, the hatchery was redesigned in the spring of 2002.

During the following season, the hatchery managed to produce 65,000 juvenile lobsters, which were released at sea by local fishermen that year. For the next 6 years the hatchery continued to release lobster juveniles at this level, making it Europe’s most successful lobster hatchery and laying the foundations for the Orkney Sustainable Fisheries. During this time, small up-welling lobster-rearing devices were trialled, until in 2008 the prototype Aquahive® was installed. In the lobster production season of 2008 the Orkney Lobster Hatchery achieved a new milestone, by releasing 100,000 lobster juveniles into the fishery.

The development of the Aquahive® was supported by Seafish, who provided a development grant. During the production season of 2008 comparison tests were carried out between the traditional tray system and the new Aquahive®. It was found that in the Aquahive® the development of the larvae was twice as fast as in the tray system, and significant increases in survival were shown over the same period.

During this period Shellfish Hatchery Systems Ltd. gave considerable thought to the way lobsters were being released in restocking programmes. At this time divers were being used to deploy the juvenile lobsters on the seabed, and/or a weighted hose from a boat. This was both prohibitively costly and was showing high levels of predation. Observation studies at the time were revealing that juvenile lobsters would not naturally be active during the daylight and preferred the cover of darkness to leave any container placed on the seabed. To this end, the Aquahive® tray was designed to be robust enough to be converted into a seabed-deployment device, and is proving to be a much cheaper and more effective juvenile deployment method than any other system currently available

Orkney Sustainable Fisheries is working hard to maintain the lobster and crab industry around Orkney. Following the large scale of juvenile releases beginning in 2002, Orkney is one of the few areas in Europe that have seen a sustained increase in the lobster fishery. Fishermen working areas where restocking has been taking place have reported increasing numbers of small lobsters entering their creels, which they return to the sea to develop further. 

The work of Orkney Lobster Hatchery and Orkney Sustainable Fisheries also extends to a voluntary ‘v’-notching scheme, whereby fishermen return female lobsters with eggs to the fishery, first marking them with a v-shaped notch in the tail indicating that they cannot be landed by any fishermen. This allows the female to release her eggs naturally in the wild for several years, the protection lasting between 5 and 30 years depending on the size of the lobster and the rate that she casts and forms a new shell.

Find out more about Orkney Sustainable Fisheries here:

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