Whitby Lobster Hatchery hails momentous day as first batch of juvenile lobsters released off Saltwick

It was a momentous day for Whitby's Lobster Hatchery as the first batch of juvenile lobsters were released into the sea at Saltwick Bay, kickstarting the project's long-term conservation aims.

By Duncan Atkins
Monday, 13th June 2022, 3:49 pm

Members of the lobster hatchery, business owners, members of the fishing community and Whitby Town Mayor Cllr Linda Wild all went to see the first juveniles - 52 in total - be released.

They had been stored in cool boxes and transported to Saltwick from the hatchery on Pier Road.

The hatchery project, which has been two years in the making, aims to release 100,000 juvenile lobsters each year to conserve lobster stocks and help Whitby's fishing communities, whose livelihoods are currently under threat from thousands of dead and dying shellfish washing up ashore.

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Whitby fisherman James Cole, Whitby Lobster Hatchery General Manager Joe Redfern, Natasha Roe-Smith, managing partner at fishmonger Cod Roe and Whitby Town Mayor, Cllr Linda Wild.

Fishermen in the area are adamant the deaths are linked to harmful chemicals released by dredging, which is being done in the River Tees as part of the Teesside Freeport project, but the Government said a naturally-occurring algal bloom is to blame.

Yesterday evening's release of juvenile lobsters is the first of what is hoped will be many more releases from the hatchery.

By rearing juvenile lobster in the hatchery, the conservation charity will ensure a higher level of early life survival for these ecologically and commercially important lobsters - Whitby is Europe's third largest lobster port with 100,000 lobsters landed into the town each year.

When the lobsters are over the vulnerable larval stage of their life cycle, they will then be released into the ocean.

James Cole and Joe Redfern release the first batch of juvenile lobsters off Saltwick, near Whitby.

The one-inch-long lobster will then feed into the local populations.

General manager of the hatchery, Joe Redfern, who has a masters in marine biology, said: “What a great achievement, we are so close to having the full hatchery installed with the aim to

release 100,000 juveniles each year.

"This first release of the juvenile lobsters is a massively symbolic step for the future.

Whitby fisherman James Cole and Joe Redfern, general manager of Whitby Lobster Hatchery, with the cool boxes containing the juvenile lobsters, at Saltwick.

"Onwards and upwards from here for our project, coastline, and fishing communities.

“We are running independent environmental tests on the environment to ensure it is safe for our juvenile lobster when we start our full release programme.

“The last thing we want to do it release all juvenile lobster into an unsafe ocean”.

Cllr Wild, who was recently re-elected as Mayor of Whitby, is a big supporter of the project.

From left: Fisherman James Cole, Whitby Mayor Cllr Linda Wild, hatchery trustee Mike Russell, Natasha Roe-Smith, managing partner at Cod Roe, hatchery trustee and lobster merchant Terry Pearson and hatchery general manager Joe Redfern.

“It’s just the right time for our release of the juvenile lobster," she said.

“With the disaster that has unfolded on our coast with the tons of dead and dying crustaceans washing up on our shores, the hatchery moving forward will help to replenish the seas with lobster for the future."

Lobster merchant Terry Pearson of Lobstore Ltd, said it was an historical day for the fishing communities in Whitby and the North East coast.

"Thousands of juvenile lobsters will be released in the coming years to help sustain our fishery," he added.

"Our project, in which we envisaged replacing each lobster caught by a fisherman, is finally under way.

"I could not be more proud, to see the efforts of so many people finally start to see some reward for all their work.

A close-up of the juvenile lobsters at the hatchery.

"Customers, are now more than ever, questioning whether the foods they purchase are sustainable?

"This is certainly a huge step in the right direction."

Whitby people can support the lobster project via Crowdfunder - just search Whitby Lobster Hatchery Crowdfunder or visit their website.

The charity is hoping to raise £10,000 to pay for the deposit of the hatchery equipment and kickstart the full juvenile rearing programme.

By signing up to the Buy One Release One Scheme, Cod Roe has agreed to support the hatchery by making a £1 donation for every lobster sold to their customers.