New Wells lobster hatchery to support sustainability

Robert Smith, left, Wells Harbourmaster and Simon Cooper, Wells Harbour administrator, at the new We

Robert Smith, left, Wells Harbourmaster and Simon Cooper, Wells Harbour administrator, at the new Wells Harbour Hatchery, who are hoping their first berried hens (female lobsters with eggs known as berries) will arrive in a few weeks. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

An exciting new project has been launched to improve the sustainability of lobster fishing on the north Norfolk coast.

The lobster hatchery is a joint effort between Wells harbour and the fishermen in the town as they look to make lobster fishing more sustainable. Working out of the old shellfish processing facility on the Quay, they will look to breed lobsters to put back into the sea.

The project is being fronted by Simon Cooper, the harbour administrator. Currently, they have two lobsters in a tank there, building up the resilience of the water before they start putting the lobsters carrying eggs, known as berried hens, into the tanks.

Simon Cooper, Wells Harbour administrator, with the first two lobsters at the new Wells Harbour Hatc

Simon Cooper, Wells Harbour administrator, with the first two lobsters at the new Wells Harbour Hatchery, with the tank which will house the berried hens (female lobsters with eggs known as berries, under their abdomen). Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

The idea has been in discussion for the last year, with the team undertaking six months of research for the project. They worked closely with Todd Fisheries in Scotland, who helped them build the tanks.

Mr Cooper said that it is difficult to tell if there is a shortage of lobsters in the water, but a project like this won’t hurt.

“There are obviously lobsters and crabs out there because they're catching them commercially, but we just see it as it can't do any harm,” he said.

The first two lobsters at the new Wells Harbour Hatchery, in the tank which will house berried hens

The first two lobsters at the new Wells Harbour Hatchery, in the tank which will house berried hens (female lobsters with eggs known as berries, under their abdomen). - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

“The more help you give to nature, it can only be a good thing.

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“By adding stock to your fishery it can only do one thing, which is helping support sustainability.”

When lobsters are born they are only tiny creatures the size of plankton. Over the next six weeks, they grow into a more traditional lobster. The hatchery is there to move the freshly birthed lobsters into a specialist tank, to stop them from being eaten.

The new Port of Wells Lobster Hatchery. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The new Port of Wells Lobster Hatchery. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

They hope to have their first hen in the tank within the next three weeks and will focus solely on their methods, before getting any more in. They hope to bring six lobsters this year, upping it to between 20 and 30 next year.

Robert Smith, the harbour master at Wells said: “During my time working for the Port of Wells, the lobster hatchery project has to be for me one of the most rewarding and interesting I have been involved in.

“It’s a joint project solely funded and set up by the port and the local fishermen, the motto is ‘hatch, rear and release’.

“It will also have an educational side where local schools and tourists can visit to learn more.”

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