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UK researchers to develop innovation to improve lobster larval survival

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Marine-i is supporting the National Lobster Hatchery to develop a new kind of larval rearing vessel, which can be used to improve lobster survival in the hatchery and ultimately help support lobster stocks. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Marine-i is designed to help the marine technology sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly grow by harnessing the full potential of research and innovation.   

The National Lobster Hatchery is marine conservation, research and education charity based in Padstow, Cornwall, UK. Their work is specifically related to the European lobster. A vital element of the National Lobster Hatchery’s work focuses on the larval stage of the lobster lifecycle.

In the wild, the survival rate at the larval stage is very low. The National Lobster Hatchery seeks to improve survival at this early, vulnerable stage of the lobster’s life and release them back into the wild at an age where they are less vulnerable and more able to fend for themselves.   

A female lobster can carry roughly 20,000 eggs under its abdomen. However, only one of these is expected to survive in the wild. With the skillful and careful application of modern technology, the National Lobster Hatchery can improve this survival rate by about 1,000 times. 

Carly Daniels of the National Lobster Hatchery explained, “we currently use modified conical vessels to keep the larvae in suspension. Now, based on our own preliminary work, we believe that it may be possible to create an enhanced larval vessel with conditions that enable greater survival rates.”

Marine-i is working with National Lobster Hatchery to develop an innovative prototype for testing. Ruadan Geraghty, from Marine-i partner University of Plymouth, said, “we are carrying out exhaustive research into the best materials to deliver the ultimate aim of improved lobster larval survival. We are aiming for materials to be sustainable and recyclable, as well as sufficiently robust to withstand the rigors of the marine environment.” 

The National Lobster Hatchery will test the prototype in the hatchery from the start of the new larval season in May 2022, with the help of Marine-i partner, University of Exeter. “If the new larval vessel is proven to achieve higher survival rates than the vessels we currently use, then we will look to move to large scale production of the new vessels for future use. This would be a very exciting outcome. The National Lobster Hatchery is one of the only very few organizations worldwide which is investigating how innovative improvements can be made in this area,” said Daniels.

Professor Lars Johanning, program director for Marine-i, said that “Marine-i is delighted to help accelerate this exciting innovation through the academic and research expertise within the Marine-i partnership. This could help meet the challenge of global food security for future generations as well as strengthen the local economy. If successful, the new larval vessel is likely to have worldwide applications, not only for use by other lobster hatcheries but also for larval survival of similar crustacean species such as crabs and other lobster species.”

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