Welsh researchers’ breakthrough in promoting sustainable EU prawn fishery

Scientists at Swansea University have made a significant breakthrough in rearing and hatching Nephrops norvegicus (Norway lobster), as part of an international initiative to develop and promote the sustainability of the EU’s prawn fishery.












Nephrops norvegicus (Norway lobster) – also known as Dublin Bay prawn, scampi and langoustine, among other names – are one of Europe’s most lucrative shellfish, with 59,000 tons a year caught commercially with a first sale value of close to £200 million.

Since 2012, researchers from Swansea University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR) have formed part of an international EU Framework 7 collaborative project called NEPHROPS, worth almost £2 million.

NEPHROPS brings together expertise from the fishing industry, aquaculture technologists and academia and CSAR, based in Swansea University’s College of Science, has played a key role in developing a pilot scale hatchery for the species, with an overarching goal to test feasibility for releasing juvenile animals into the wild to assist restocking.

Briefly, adult females are allowed to spawn naturally, and larvae are cultured through three successive stages in upwelling tanks to simulate the currents of the open sea. After approximately 25 days the larvae metamorphose into juveniles, which have the appearance of adults, but are only 1.5 cm in length. And soon after this period, lobsters are typically released onto the sea bed.

Initial research, in association with the Orkney Lobster Hatchery, was based on established techniques for commercial culture of the larger European lobster, Homarus gammarus.

While the species have a similar life cycle, langoustine larvae are less robust and are more challenging to culture.

Due to high natural mortality in the wild, survival during larval stages is very low, and previous efforts to rear larvae in captivity have yielded juveniles from at best five per cent of the initial larval population.

After three seasons’ efforts, the CSAR team have successfully optimised larval rearing at pilot commercial scale, with success to metamorphosis reaching in excess of 50 per cent, with hundreds of juveniles predicted during the 2014 season.

The results will culminate in a publicly available hatchery handbook, which will be made available online early in 2015.

Dr Adam Powell, project leader at Swansea University, said: “This breakthrough is a testimony to the cutting edge facilities, technical support and innovation at CSAR.

“The project team anticipates these results will be of particular interest to the aquaculture industry, as they demonstrate the potential to successfully rear this species for release.

“The research will also assist marine scientists to investigate the effects of ocean acidification and other stressors on larval recruitment, due to the importance of Nephrops norvegicus to the UK and EU economy.”

For more information on the NEPHROPS project, visit http://www.nephrops.eu/.

Image: Breakthrough – one of the many advanced Nephrops norvegicus postlarvae reared and hatched this season at Swansea University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR). Photo: Adam Powell.

Posted by Bethan Evans <b.w.evans@swansea.ac.uk>
Wednesday 27 August 2014 00.00 GMT
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