Hatching a plan to sustain lobster stocks

From left: Andrew Gooding, hatchery manager, and Jon Green of Northumberland Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority. Picture courtesy of The Ambler.
From left: Andrew Gooding, hatchery manager, and Jon Green of Northumberland Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority. Picture courtesy of The Ambler.

A new venture is underway to promote local shellfish and sustain lobster stocks along the Northumberland coast – creating numerous jobs in the process.

A lobster and shellfish hatchery is being developed in Amble’s Northumberland Seafood Centre, with the aim of providing a fascinating visitor experience, as well as having a serious conservation purpose.

And five new jobs have been created, with four vacancies still to be filled.

Hatchery manager Andrew Gooding said “The Northumberland Seafood Centre will house all the holding tanks, larvae tanks and juvenile tanks alongside all the required chillers, filters and pumps to create a fully-operational hatchery for the Northumberland coast.

“The hatchery is not just a visitor attraction, but also an important project to help ensure future stocks of shellfish for the local fishing industry. Initially we will be helping lobsters, but will look to work with crabs and langoustine in the future.”

Julia Aston, of Amble Development Trust – which owns the facility – said: “Many of our fishermen have had to concentrate effort on shellfish, rather than white fish, in recent years. This is due to decreasing whitefish quota – of which our inshore fleet have had very little anyway.

“With the increased reliance on shellfish, and the influx of visiting boats in the season, shellfish numbers could be in danger of being overfished. We therefore want to try to restock to increase levels before they reach a critical stage.”

A female lobster can carry upwards of 20,000 eggs under their body for more than nine months, but once hatched, the majority will not survive in the wild. At the hatchery, the eggs will be protected in tanks for several weeks while they grow and start to look like mini lobsters.

Then, with the help of Northumberland Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority, the baby lobsters will be returned to the sea; their positions accurately recorded for long-term research.

The hatchery is due to open at Easter. The existing Northumberland Seafood Centre will be refitted to accommodate it, as well as continuing to sell fresh seafood and run Creel Club.

Funding for the £250,000 hatchery project came from National Lottery through Power to Change and Northumberland County Council.

Vacancies exist for two part-time hatchery technician/fish filleters, one hatchery technician/fish filleter apprentice and one seasonal visitor assistant. Volunteers are also required to help look after the lobsters and explain the project to visitors. Contact Andrew on 01665 713580.