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The Big Run - The National Lobster HatcheryThe National Lobster Hatchery is a pioneering marine conservation, research and education charity. Our work focuses upon a novel form of managing our living marine resources that compliments existing fisheries management tools and takes an interventional approach to conserving our vulnerable lobster populations. Ultimately this work helps to safeguard our inshore fishing industry and the coastal communities that it supports.

We were officially opened in October 2000 by our patron, Baroness Wilcox of Plymouth and received charitable status in 2004. We are supported by the dedication and hard work of our team of staff, volunteers and trustees, which includes leading academics, representatives from the inshore fisheries and conservation authority and members of the local community.


We have three main charitable outputs that are supported by income raised through our visitor centre, partnerships and through grants from grant giving trusts and foundations:

• CONSERVATION: We operate a stocking programme for the European Lobster within our inshore waters.

• RESEARCH: We conduct pioneering research that will assess the impact of our stocking programme and further develop stocking and culture techniques.

• EDUCATION: Our education programme aims to raise awareness about fisheries sustainability issues and their potential solutions.


The Big Run - The National Lobster HatcheryMore than 75% of the world’s fish stocks are either fully exploited, over exploited, depleted or recovering. The world’s human population is due to reach 9 billion and there has never been as much pressure on the world’s fish stocks. Some authorities claim that if we continue to take from our oceans without effective control, there will be no fish left by the middle of the century. We desperately need new approaches to managing our living marine resources. The work of the National Lobster Hatchery represents exactly that.

The European lobster is worth a huge amount both in terms of its economic and social importance, with UK catches worth around £30 million each year. Their high value, combined with low recruitment success and intense fishing pressure means they are vulnerable to stock collapse. Lobster stocks in Scandinavia collapsed in the 1960’s and have failed to recover to this day.

Since opening we have released approximately 140,000 lobsters into the sea and nearly 1/2 million visitors have been educated about sustainability issues associated with fisheries. Our work is becoming increasingly important, not just to the UK but as a model for fisheries management worldwide.


CONSERVATION: Our conservation programme involves the fishing industry, scientists, the local community and the general public. It primarily focuses on an innovative stock enhancement programme which involves raising juvenile lobsters through their vulnerable stages and then releasing them into the wild once they have reached a less vulnerable stage in their lifecycle. A female lobster on average will carry in the region of 20,000 eggs, yet in the wild only one of these is expected to survive. Our innovative techniques improve this survival rate by around 1,000 times.

The Big Run - The National Lobster Hatchery


The Lifecycle of the European Lobster

  1. Planktonic stages (i-iv) lasting 4-6 weeks, very vulnerable to predation from a huge number of predators.
  2. Early Benthic Phase (EBP) living in burrows and therefore less vulnerable to predation.
  3. Juveniles start to emerge from burrows after 1.5 – 2 years. Juveniles and sub adults become crevice seeking and forage at night.
  4. Adult lobsters mature between 4 and 7 years of age. Females carry in the region of 20,000 eggs attached to the underside of the tail. Eggs take about 9 months to develop.


The hatchery process in a nutshell:

  • Brood acquisition: egg bearing or berried hens are acquired from fishermen and wholesalers and kept at the hatchery until their eggs hatch.
  • Larval culture: the delicate larvae are reared in communal upwelling cones for around 16 days, during which time they go through several different metamorphic stages.
  • Post-larval culture: when larvae have reached their fourth stage of development they are separated and reared in individual compartments, until ready for release at up to 3 months old.
  • Juvenile deployment: juveniles are released with the assistance of fishermen and divers into appropriate habitat on the seabed.


RESEARCH: Research is key to the continued success of our project and resolving sustainability issues as a whole. It involves partnerships with leading academics and institutions. We have published in peer reviewed journals and presented on the global stage and are supported by an academic panel, who guide and influence our direction.

Current research projects include:

  • The assessment of the appropriateness of genetic markers as a tool for identification of hatchery reared lobsters. Leading to an improved evaluation of the impact of stocking work.
  • Assessing the population genetics and dynamics of the Cornish lobster population.
  • An identification of genetic markers for growth, furthering our understanding of selection processes within the hatchery and for lobster culture.
  • The development of a formulated diet and improved understanding of the dietary requirements of juvenile and larval lobsters.
  • The development of an extensive, low carbon on-growing technique (sea based container culture) of juvenile lobsters.
“Years of extensive research has concluded that survival rates from releases at 3 months to re-capture at 5 years could be as high as 50%”


The Big Run - The National Lobster HatcheryEDUCATION: We recognise that the key to the long term success of our work is education. The NLH operates a public education centre which attracts over 42,000 people a year and promotes the importance of sustainability and responsible marine management. We attract students and volunteers from all around the world who wish to train with our staff and learn about our work and we are also involved in formal education, working with schools, colleges and universities in the region. In 2013 the NLH received a ‘Commended’ award from The Cornwall Tourism Awards.

In 2012, 97% of our visitors said that after their visit they had an improved understanding of the importance of ensuring fisheries are sustainable.
In 2012, 92% of our visitors said that after their visit they were more likely to purchase seafood from a sustainable source.


COMMUNITY: The National Lobster Hatchery is heavily community focussed, we incorporate a volunteering scheme which provides learning, training and mentoring opportunities. We also work with local fishermen, using their local knowledge and vessels to release baby lobsters into the sea.


SUSTAINABILITY & CARBON FOOTPRINT: The NLH has won several major awards for its promotion of sustainable development and we ensure a sustainable approach is applied to all aspects of the charity’s work. This has included the installation of Photovoltaic panels in 2011 which have already reduced our carbon emissions by over 8 tons.


FUNDING: The National Lobster Hatchery receives no recurrent government funding and for the main part, relies on the revenue generated by our small but popular visitor centre. Any donation you are able to provide would be very gratefully received, alternatively if you would like to assist us with the delivery of a specific project, we would be very keen to hear from you.

  • £500 would cover the costs for the feeding of 30,000 larvae.
  • £1,000 would cover a months salary for a senior hatchery technician.

The Big Run - The National Lobster Hatchery

PROJECTS: The NLH has plans for much needed exciting and innovative projects, big and small, all of which would make a remarkable difference to the charity’s capacity and impact. Our major plans include:

  • A new additional site for the facility that would significantly increase our capacity to raise and release baby lobsters as well as our ability to conduct ground breaking research and validation work to support the project.
  • An extension and development of the NLH visitor education centre. Our plans for a much needed extension will greatly increase the centre’s appeal and capacity. The increased footfall will not only generate additional revenue, but enable the charity to educate the general public more effectively, to a bigger audience.
  • The NLH, in collaboration with local fishermen is progressing its plans to develop a regulated fishery for crab and lobster in Padstow (a first for England). The plans are to monitor the impacts of fisheries enhancement, within a novel management context. If successful this model can then be rolled out elsewhere in Cornwall and further afield.


We are a small charity with big ideas