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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Zoo ends lobsters' growing pains
Lobster being handled - picture courtesy of Anglesey Sea Zoo
Anglesey Sea Zoo has been holding talks and giving visitors, like Huw Padrig Price, a chance to handle lobsters at the new hatchery
Babies deserve the best start in life and at Anglesey Sea Zoo, it is no different for lobsters.

Wales' first hatchery for lobster opens with curators looking to release up to 600 babies a year off the north Wales.

Conservationists are working with fishermen to help lobsters get over the first crucial six months.

What began as a small-scale breeding programme has now turned into a full scale project due to 50,000 European funding from Objective One.

The hatchery is also open to the public, to help educate people about lobsters and the need to preserve their stocks.

Assistant curator Clare White said: "About 20 years ago, there was a serious problem off the coast here but levels have come back up and we hope this will continue."

The zoo plans to work closely with more local fishermen, to help achieve a balance between conserving fish stocks and helping the industry.

One fisherman already brings into the zoo "berried" or pregnant female lobsters, who can each lay between 2,000 and 20,000 eggs.

But only a fraction of these get through to the larvae stage, which may leave between 20 or 30 juveniles from each brood to grow to maturity.

Front view of a lobster - photo courtesy of Sarah Nash
Lobsters are about three centimetres long at six months but can carry on growing all their lives

The hatchery, which has a capacity for up to 2,000 lobsters a year, will release them when they reach six or seven months old - then they have to take their chances.

Ms White said: "The first couple of years are the most crucial - if they survive that and pass the dangers, they can live to the age of 60."

"They don't really have any predators apart from humans or the odd seal who might take their chances with the shell."

The zoo is also marking the mother lobsters with a "V" notch on their tails as a sign to fishermen, which lasts up to three years and should allow them a chance of greater breeding time.

A EU-funded 200,000 tail-notching scheme involving the North West and North Wales Sea Fisheries' Committee expects to see 15,000 lobsters released back into the sea over the next three years.

Fishermen are reimbursed for mother lobsters which are notched and returned to the sea.

A spokeswoman for the NWNWSC said: "The programme would not work without the committment and dedication of the fishermen.

"We have a good relationship with the Sea Zoo, who educate visitors coming to their lobster hatchery and help advertise the importance of conservation programmes such as the lobster notching and return of lobsters to the sea."




SEE ALSO:
Luck runs out for giant lobster
19 Jul 03  |  Wales
Giant lobster saved from menu
17 Jul 03  |  Wales


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