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Article from the Smithsonian on Rock Lobster Hatchery


In the near future, Tasmania, Australia’s island state, will house the first rock lobster hatchery in the world—and possibly launch a new, multi-million-dollar industry.


Unlike the Maine lobster—the popular USA variety that comes from the Atlantic Ocean—the rock lobster, or “spiny lobster,” as it’s also known, lives in warm waters like the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean.  It should be noted that “rock lobster” isn’t just one kind of crustacean, but a general term for a bunch of different, related species.  In a lot of places around the world, rock lobster of one sort or another is the go-to crustacean at dinnertime, especially in Australia.


People love rock lobster.  A lot.  So much so that over the years their numbers have dwindled in the wild, requiring countries like Australia to enforce a quota system that caps the amount that can be taken by fishermen.  In the case of the Australian rock lobster, the notion of producing commercial quantities in a hatchery has, until now, been nearly impossible.  The creatures are notoriously hard to grow from eggs because of their complex life cycles—one of the longest larval developments of any marine creature—which require slightly different growing conditions in the various early stages of their lives.


But researchers at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), located in Hobart, have figured out how to grow the creatures in special tanks, using a particular diet and hygiene practices that took more than 15 years to perfect.  The details of the technology have not been released by the researchers, but we do know they use a recirculating system involving 10,000-liter tanks to purify the water and shorten the time the lobsters spend in the larval stage.  No antibiotics are used in the process.


Unlike rock lobster farming in Indonesia and Vietnam, where farmers stock wild-caught juvenile lobsters in sea cages, the Australian venture will be the first in the world to start from eggs, which means it won’t be diminishing the supplies in the wild.  Rock lobsters can spawn as many as half a million eggs.  Although the Maine lobster and its close relative, the European lobster, aren’t farmed, there are some hatcheries in the USA and Europe that grow them from larvae and release the juveniles into the wild where they are then caught once they reach maturity.


Information: Greg Smith, Research Hub Director, The ARC Research Hub for Commercial Development of Rock Lobster Culture Systems, 15-21 Nubeena Crescent, Taroona, Tasmania 7053, Australia (Phone +61-3-6226-8268, Email, Webpage


Source:  Rock Lobster From a Farm Could Soon Be Coming to a Menu Near You.  Andrew Amelinckx.  [This article originally appeared in Modern Farmer.]  September 28, 2017.


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