Claws for thought
THE rising price of lobster coupled with the development of new technology is making the shellfish species a promising candidate for aquaculture, a detailed new report suggests. EUMOFA, the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture, said the UK, Norway and Iceland have been experimenting with lobster farms over a number of years, but had so far failed to reach commercial levels.
However, that situation was changing, with the breeding of juvenile lobsters being developed in both the United States and Europe, and particularly in areas where wild stocks have declined.
World catches of this high value and highly regulated species are currently around 167,000 tonnes, with a 92 per cent increase in American lobster (both Canada and the US) and a more modest 13 per cent rise in European lobster since 2007.
European lobster, said EUMOFA, is much rarer than the American lobster and is mostly marketed alive.
American lobster mainly finds its way into UK and European markets during the Christmas season, either frozen, whole, cooked or live.
In Europe, the UK and France were the two countries with the highest catches, at 79 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.
But French consumers are paying up to five euros per kilogram more than their British counterparts. The average price per kilo in 2016 was €15.73.
‘The main limitation for lobster aquaculture has been high production costs due to the duration of the production cycle, the demand for 18-22 degrees C water to get acceptable growth rates, and the need for individual rearing compartments to avoid cannibalism and uneven growth rates due to hierarchies,’ said the report.
The lack of a high quality formulated feed has also been a limiting factor. But EUMOFA said that new technology and the fact that lobster biology is now better understood have made it a relatively easy species to rear in closed cycle aquaculture. Rising prices have also helped.
In addition, the aquaculture of juvenile lobsters has been developed in both American and European regions for seeding purposes where wild stocks had declined.
EUMOFA highlights an additional study on the work of a company called Norwegian Lobster Farm, which has patented a new farming technology that incorporates all necessary prerequisites for successful and profitable culture of plate sized lobsters.
The report said: ‘This major R&D project was first initiated in 2000 by the company with the aim to evaluate the potential for commercial production of plate sized lobsters (20cm/300g).
‘All trials were conducted in small to medium scale in order to reveal and solve the main bottlenecks (biological, technical and market challenges) before commercialising.
‘Moreover, Norwegian Lobster Farm has a separate hatchery where IV-stage juveniles are produced from broodstock carefully selected from vital farming criteria.
‘The ideal system for rearing lobsters individually should be relatively inexpensive to construct and operate; simple to maintain; based on automatic feeding and self-cleaning of tank and cages; maintain ideal water quality conditions; use space in three dimensions; enable high densities; conserve water at high temperatures; ensure good survival and permit easy access to the livestock for inspection and feeding.
‘American researchers had reported five years earlier that no successful attempts had been made which include all of these features into a single design.
‘Until the year 2000, neither commercial nor R&D activities had been done in Norway to develop a land based farming concept for raising plate sized lobsters,’ said EUMOFA.
But since then, the Norwegian Lobster Farm
has developed, tested and documented six different technologies, including single trays, stacks of trays, horizontal as well as vertical systems, strings of polyethylene, and communal rearing. The aim of the project was to develop cost effective farming solutions using recirculation of heated seawater. The report adds: ‘As a result of this work, Norwegian Lobster Farm has patented a new farming technology in 23 countries that incorporates all necessary prerequisites for successful and profitable culture of plate sized lobsters.
‘This technology lifts the crustacean industry from 2D to 3D by effectively utilising all three dimensions in the water column.’
The system is based on individual compartments, in a modular design, which can be built up in stages, according to Norway Lobster Farm founder and CEO Asbjorn Drengstig, who presented his technology to global aquaculture leaders at the Aquavision conference in Stavanger in June last year.
What’s more, the company has developed all automated technologies that now supplement most of the procedures that previously were dependent on manual labour.
The farming concept has been successfully tested over the last three years, with the result that the company is now commercialising the work and plans to expand its production up to 20 tonnes annually in a new factory on the island of Kvitsøy.
‘We’re the only company in the world that has succeeded in closing the value chain for farming lobsters so there’s a lot of potential to develop this into an industry,’ said Drengstig during his presentation at Aquavision.
‘We’re doing something no one has ever done, we feel like we’re doing something radical in the aquaculture industry, and we can have lobster farms anywhere, or mostly anywhere, in the world.’
We’re the only company in the world that has succeeded in closing the value lobsters” chain for farming
Top: Lobster Above: Asbjorn Drengstig Opposite: Grilled Lobster and vegetables on plate