As we move into May, the Lobster Grower 2 team are looking forward to ditching their sea-going thermals and enjoying the Cornish spring sunshine. It seems like time has flown by; the team spent a day at sea last week to conduct growth and survival checks on lobsters that have already been out at sea for just over 8 months.
Despite the wet and windy weather, work has continued at sea throughout the winter. The Westcountry Mussels of Fowey crew have been busy undertaking maintenance work on the site to ensure that the lobster on-growing systems are securely fastened to the mussel lines during the rough easterly storms coming in to St Austell Bay. The National Lobster Hatchery researchers have also continued lobster deployments and checks during the autumn and winter, including the painstaking process of measuring the juveniles while aboard to check how well they are growing!.
The next few months will be spent gearing up for this year’s summer lobster deployments. In the 1st year of the project, over 14,500 baby lobsters were introduced into on-growing systems at the site in St Austell Bay and the aim is to introduce thousands more in Year 2. To prepare for this, over 700 on-growing systems need to be assembled, which will become homes for our lobster babies. A time consuming process it may be, but the promise of a pasty lunch on our assembly days definitely keeps spirits high and makes the days go faster.
The second summer of the project will also see the project partners undertake research into understanding what naturally settling animals and plants the lobsters are feeding on. We don’t feed the lobsters while they are at sea, so they must be eating whatever floats through or settles on the on-growing containers, and it is a unique opportunity for us to understand this process for the first time. Very little is known about the natural diet of juvenile lobsters, whether wild-born or hatchery-reared, so this research really is ground breaking for our Lobster Grower 2 research team.
All in all, it looks like the hard work by all the Lobster Grower 2 partners is paying off. Already, interesting results are being generated in all areas of the project, from understanding lobster growth rates to characterising the water movements within St Austell Bay. With 18 months left on the project these really are exciting times for the National Lobster Hatchery.
The National Lobster Hatchery and Natural England have teamed up to run a citizen science project, ‘Understanding the Natural Environment of St Austell Bay’ (#UNESAB). The Lobster Grower 2 consortium has been characterising the marine environment in St Austell Bay. As part of this work is being undertaken to assess the benthic environment (the seabed) and the wealth of marine life associated with it. This work includes baited remote underwater video (BRUV) and drop down camera (DDC) systems to investigate the habitat types and biodiversity associated with the seabed. The lobster rearing systems act as a form of artificial reef, providing a perfect place of many species to settle, aggregate and refuge, which can then lead to a variety of fish and other mobile species being attracted to the area, so we expect to see some very interesting camera footage.
The main aim of the #UNESAB scheme is to enable any interested person to contribute to our research by helping to identify the species of marine life present in short sections of video taken at several sites around the Bay. If you are interested in getting involved then please visit www.lobstergrower.co.uk/unesab.