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Last Updated: Monday, 17 September 2007, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Fishermen release baby lobsters
A diver prepares to take the baby lobsters to the sea bed
The tiny babies were released by divers on the sea bed
Fishermen and conservationists are working together to try and safeguard lobster numbers off Pembrokeshire.

130 tiny baby lobsters have been released off Skomer Island in the first part of a conservation project.

It is hoped releasing babies which are bred in captivity will help sustain the long-term future of the industry.

Pembrokeshire has the highest number of lobster fishermen in Wales, with lobsters and crabs making up over 90% of the county's commercial fishing.

The babies were given to the South & West Wales Fisheries Communities (SWWFC), which represents local fishermen, by the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow, Cornwall.

SWWFC officer Greg Phillpot said: "Last year the hatchery put out a request for a large lobster to go into their visitor centre as a star attraction.

"One of our fishermen caught a very large lobster - we think he was over 50 and he weighed about 10lbs.

Baby lobsters
The first time they are seen in the wild is when they are three or four years old when they are out and about looking for food
Phil Newman

"We were asked to name him and we came up with Dai the Claw - we struck a deal with the hatchery people - we had babies hatched there to bring back here to be released into the wild."

With the help of divers and Skomer nature reserve officer Phil Newman the babies were found new homes about 18m (59ft) below the surface on the sea bed.

"In the wild there is a huge gap in knowledge - the first time they are seen in the wild is when they are three or four years old when they are out and about looking for food," said Mr Newman.

"We are trying to find what we think is the best habitat for them to grow in.

"We are told they like to burrow when they are this size so we are looking for somewhere with a bit of soft sediment, a few pebbles and a few nooks and crannies."

There is no way of knowing how many will survive or reach adult age as they are too small to tag.

But Mr Phillpot said he hoped work would start to breed them in captivity in Wales for release into the wild.

"What we would like to happen is in the future for Wales to have a hatchery so we could release youngsters into the wild to replenish the stocks taken by the fishermen and ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery."


SEE ALSO
Campaign to protect Skomer coast
30 Aug 07 |  South West Wales
Fisherman paid to return lobsters
18 May 05 |  South West Wales

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