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New Land-based Lobster Farming Project in Swansea

SWANSEA, UK - Researchers from the Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture Research (CSAR) at Swansea University are travelling to Norway this week to kick-start a two-year project designed to keep European lobster firmly on the menu.

Known as LobsterPlant, the project aims to rear lobsters individually through an innovative land-based farming process, thereby significantly increasing their numbers to meet growing consumer demand.

Lobsters have always been seen as a luxury food item and the European Lobster, Homarus gammarus, with its particular taste and texture, is by far the most popular.

However, the European lobster comprises only 1-3% of global lobster landings at present. Simply put, demand far outweighs supply.

"The techniques developed will also be adaptable for re-stocking juvenile lobsters into the wild"
Dr Shields, Director of CSAR

The new EU Framework 7 project, worth €1,350,000 (around £1,082,500) in total, will benefit from celebrity endorsement from Rick Stein, one of the nine participants in the project.

Mr Stein will promote the farming process and demonstrate the quality of land-reared lobster through his television programmes, ultimately planning to obtain farmed lobster for his Padstow sea-food restaurants and hotels from the Norwegian project co-ordinator and commercial lobster farming company, Norsk Hummer AS.

The National Lobster Hatchery at Padstow will also be working alongside Swansea University on the project.

Aquaculture is now of great interest as an alternative method to increase supply of European lobster, especially through land-based farming techniques which allow lobster to grow to market size in approximately 18-24 months compared to approximately 5 years in the wild.

As well as enabling more rapid growth, lobster farming also offers a steady and reliable supply to the market, supplementing existing supplies of lobster from the wild.

Until now, farming of European lobster has been hampered by the laborious process of housing and feeding the animals individually, to prevent them battling each other with their powerful claws.

This drawback will be addressed in the new project by introducing modern technologies such as robotics and digital imaging, to feed and measure the growing lobsters automatically.

An expert consortium of research partners has been brought together to develop and apply the technologies needed, led by the National Institute of Technology in Norway.

Dr Robin Shields, Dr Adam Powell and Dr Ingrid Lupatsch from CSAR will join other project partners at the Norsk Hummer Plant in Norway this week, to contribute their expertise in aquaculture water quality control, health management and nutrition. Juvenile lobsters are already being reared at CSAR in Swansea as part of the project.

Dr Shields, Director of CSAR which forms part of the School for the Environment and Society said: "We are delighted that Swansea University is playing an important role in this European project to establish commercially viable farming of one of our best known and highly regarded seafood species. The techniques developed will also be adaptable for re-stocking juvenile lobsters into the wild, providing benefits to both the Welsh aquaculture and capture fisheries communities in future."