It was an early start for the Lobster Grower 2 (LG2) team on what was set to be another scorching day of the 2018 summer. Despite the 5am start, everybody was filled with anticipation as it was time to retrieve over 200 of our oldest lobsters which had been deployed in sea-based containers on the Lobster Grower 2 site in St Austell Bay. The team was split in to two groups; one to go out on ‘Saints Bay’, the Westcountry Mussels of Fowey boat to retrieve the lobster-filled containers from the mussel farm; and the second group to stay dock-side and prepare an area for examination of the lobsters.
Once the lobsters were ashore, one of the biggest challenges was to keep the lobsters (and staff) cool from the sun which was beating down with great intensity. A large gazebo and tanks of cool water (much like a dock-side swimming pool for lobsters) did the trick. The main focus of the day was to assess the health status of the lobsters which was done with the use of a team from CEFAS (an LG2 consortium partner) and their expert knowledge of shellfish.
In spite of it being a long process everybody was kept going by how fantastic the lobsters were looking after two years out at sea. These lobsters have been checked and photographed on a regular basis to monitor their growth and survival and have now reached a size of around 10 to 15cm (total length). The team marvelled at the variety of colours and shell patterns of the lobsters as well as the diversity of marine life which were co-habiting with the lobsters in their homes.
Now came the part of the day that any budding Marine biologist dreams of on those long days concentrating in the lecture theatres at University … being able to support sustainability in the marine environment and being able to say you get paid to spend a sunny afternoon releasing lobsters back into the sea. The team merrily packed up the lobsters, jumped in their vehicles and headed over to Charlestown on the other side of the bay. Here, they were met by excited staff from The Longstore, restaurant, who have just recently joined the National Lobster Hatchery’s (NLH) By One Set One Free (BOSOF) scheme. BOSOF is a clever sustainable seafood scheme that enables members of the hospitality industry and their customers to do their bit to help sustain our vulnerable marine food resources. The simple concept being that a small donation made on either every sale of lobster / or on every customer bill goes to the NLH, so they can raise and release baby lobsters back into our coastal waters to help conserve fragile stocks, on the customers’ behalf.
This was a unique opportunity for the new BOSOF sign ups and the timing of the release was perfect. The day’s tide was at its lowest and to access the most appropriate habitat for the lobsters, the team made their way over the barnacle-covered rocks to the water’s edge. Everyone was excited by the prospect of getting to release the lobsters and let them take their first steps (or tail flicks) into the natural environment. None more so than The Longstore staff which couldn’t believe they had the impromptu opportunity to join in with the release during what they thought would be a normal day in the restaurant.
As the lobsters were acclimatised in the sea to get them used to their surroundings, quite a crowd of passers-by were gathering, who were all very interested in what was going on, on a quiet afternoon in sleepy Charlestown. This gave the NLH staff a wonderful opportunity to educate members of the public about the NLH and what we were set up to do, as well as explaining how these lobsters were grown out in St Austell Bay on the pilot scale lobster site with Westcountry Mussels of Fowey.
It was truly amazing watching how the lobsters behaved and began to explore their new environment. Once all the lobsters had quickly scuttled or swum away into rocky crevices or under seaweed, the empty fish boxes and baskets were brought back over the rocky reef and loaded into the van. The staff from The Longstore then very kindly provided a round of ice coffees and water to cool everyone down which were gratefully received. We can highly recommend a visit to The Longstore … a hidden gem.
After returning to and the doc side to finish the days work (clearing and cleaning the research station), the team were starting to feel the effects of the early start and the swelteringly hot day. Regardless of this, spirits remained high as the LG2 team reflected on the experience of releasing the exquisite juvenile lobsters and what it is undoubtedly the most rewarding part of the job.