Muddy visits: The National Lobster Hatchery, Padstow
Watching baby lobster whoosh around a tube might not sound like your cuppa tea, but trust me, if you and your mudlets are anywhere near Padstow, the The National Lobster Hatchery is well worth a visit. Super conveniently situated on the South Quay, you can park right outside if you’re early enough.
The National Lobster Hatchery was established in 2000 to help support dwindling lobster populations seen in northern Europe. Three simple measures – a byelaw preventing the landing of egg carrying females, larval collection and rearing and juvenile rearing – have not only preserved our coastal marine biodiversity, but helped safeguard the livelihoods of local fishing communities and ensured you and I can continue to enjoy our Lobster Thermidor and other seafood specials. That’s three ticks in the right boxes!
We took a tour of their visitor centre where you can see their efforts in action – they grow on baby lobsters from eggs through their most vulnerable stage of their life cycle and with the help of local fishermen and divers, release them back into the wild around Cornwall.
100% funded by donations, the Hatchery have to be really creative in their fund raising. Claire Stanley, head of fund raising has managed to engage the support of a number of seafood restaurants and fishmongers who supply sustainably sourced seafood. Those participating add a discretionary £1.75 to the bill when their customer purchases lobster (or an alternative specified seafood dish). The restaurant/fishmonger then matches the donation, so a total £3.50 will go to the Hatchery.
The donations ensure that the fry are looked after during their most vulnerable lava stage (where typically 90% are gobbled up by fish as soon as they hatch) and released to the wild once they are big enough to burrow and hide from predators at about 12 weeks old. Eating Lobster never felt so good! Claire calls this BOSOF (Buy One Set One Free) donation scheme and its been a huge success, raising much need funds for current work and future development. Isn’t that a great idea? You can find a list of participating restaurants and fishmongers here.
Want to see more? So did we! How about 30 minutes behind the scenes with their resident expert? New this year, the hatchery are offering a Meet the Expert Tours.
Clare explained the various life stages, and we saw the nursery (Lobster fact: lady lobsters with eggs are known as berried hens), through to the larval drums, to the individually housed baby lobsters – and they need housing separately as they’ll eat each other (a fact enjoyed by the mudlets!).Want to help more? Take a look at their fun Little Shop of Lobster online or at the Hatchery. Not your typical run of the mill gift shop plastic (that kids love, yes I know) you find a thoughtful and appropriately curated list of fantastic local brands, and every thing from clothing to hampers.
Looking for a present for the friend who has everything? I bet they haven’t got a Lobster. You can adopt one via the Hatchery.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Rainy days. Something different. Families, young children. Access is good all round so everyone can enjoy the fun. Science students, conservationists, nature lovers. Those looking for something to do in their lunch hour. They even welcome well behaved dogs on leads.
Not for: Although it is buggy and wheel chair friendly, the exhibit space is relatively small and it can get chocablock at high season. Make the most of your time there by going early doors or out of season.
£££: Stonkingly great value! Family annual pass is only £9. (Adults £3.50, children £1.75 and under fives free!)
The National Lobster Hatchery, South Quay, Padstow PL28 8BL