Terry McGrath of the Northumberland Lobster Hatchery holds up a berried lobster that would soon release its newborns into a holding tank. The larvae will stay in the tank for two weeks and then be released into the Northumberland Strait. The hatchery officially opens on June 1, but most days now people are working around the building preparing, for the upcoming season. PHOTO BY SUEANN MUSICK
By SueAnn Musick
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
PICTOU, N.S. – Berried lobsters are finding their way to a new home on Pictou’s waterfront, but it’s not via the ocean’s bottom.
Instead, local fishermen with special licences that enable them to catch berried lobsters are taking them to the Northumberland Lobster Hatchery where they will release their eggs into the holding tanks so they can grow to stage four larvae.
When the baby lobsters are released, the female is returned to her natural habitat and the larvae continue to be held in tanks for 14 days. They will then be brought back to the waters of the Northumberland Strait where their rate of survival is much higher.
Terry McGrath, manager and chief technician for the hatchery, said he is hoping to have as many as 300 female lobsters go through the hatchery this summer so more baby lobsters can be hatched and safely returned to the wild.
“Last year, we released 151,000 baby lobsters by putting in five extra tanks,” he said. “This year, we are hoping to expand upstairs so we will have a one full system and three-quarters of another.”
He said allowing the larvae to reach stage four in a controlled environment helps the baby lobster’s chance of survival. In 2010, he said, the hatchery had a 48 per cent survival rate from the 80,000 larvae it released.
But local fishermen aren’t the only ones who can help replenish the lobster stock.
The hatchery is once again hosting its adopt-a-lobster program that allows people to release their own larvae into the waters of Pictou Harbour.
“We release them off at the end of the wharf and for some people it is a really big day,” he said. “They take video and pictures. They like the fact that they are doing their part to give back.”
The hatchery will officially open its doors on June 1, operating seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but McGrath said if he is working around the building, people are welcome to stop in. He said the hatchery is a big draw for tourists who often book tours of the facility.