Lobster Hatchery Systems

Lobster Hatcheries are used for fisheries enhancement to ensure there are always plenty more fish in the sea.

Todd Fish Tech founders Dr Keith and Errin Todd have developed really innovative lobster hatchery technology which is energy efficient and ensures environmentally fit lobster juveniles.

To help ensure a sustainable lobster fishery many groups around the UK operate Lobster Hatchery facilities.

In the wild only 1 in 10,000 baby lobster will reach adult size. Hatcheries raise baby lobsters in specially designed recirculation systems (RAS) and release the juvenile lobsters to the wild once they are past the vulnerable larval stage. A return to the fishery of 11% has been achieved after 5 – 7 years when lobsters reach the minimum landing size.


Berried Lobsters (female lobster with eggs which look like berries under their tail) are held in tanks with filters until the eggs hatch.

Lobster larvae can take several months to develop and hatch in late spring and summer.

Berried hens are collected from fishermen in the spring and transferred to the broodstock tanks.

The larvae usually hatch at night and swim up towards the light (positively phototactic).

Different styles of broodstock systems are available and we have adapted our unique Lobster Pod system as well as tanks with filtration to use for broodstock females depending on how many you want to hold.

“[To Errin)Your dedication to the fishing industry and your efforts in finding ways to breed shellfish know no bounds. It was very evident that you are extremely well versed with all things associated with the fishing industry and especially the shellfish sector. Your dedication deserves recognition and support from government.”

Moray Firth

Larval lobsters

After hatching, larval lobsters are placed in kreisel tanks where the tiny larvae are kept in gentle suspension and fed a diet of preserved or live plankton and the water is filtered and aerated to maintain water quality.

To grow lobsters moult their shell regularly and are soft and vulnerable while they expand in size and their shell hardens. Between each moult is counted as an intermoult stage and after 3 moults (stage 4) the baby lobster is no longer a larva, looks like a tiny version of its parent and changes its behaviour so it can walk around the seabed and find shelter. At this stage the baby lobster becomes negatively phototactic (moves away from light) and naturally wants to hide in the gravel and boulder cobble on the seabed where it can feed on worms and other creatures it finds. At a temperature of about 18oC in the hatchery larvae grow fast and reach stage 4 after about 28 days.

For the most cost-effective approach to lobster fishery enhancement we believe it is important that juveniles are released at stage 4 as it is the time in their development when the drive to seek a new habitat and the negatively phototactic instinct is strongest. A number of European hatcheries hold juveniles and grow them to a larger size prior to release with the aim of increasing survival of the larger juveniles. Research in the USA has proven a better return to the fishery when juveniles are released at stage 4 rather than holding the lobsters longer. You could release tens of thousands of lobsters every season at stage 4 from a space no larger than a shipping container or double garage.

If you would like to learn more about our systems please get in touch

Juvenile lobsters

Due to the cannibalistic nature of lobster it is important to keep juveniles in separate compartments.

We have a special tank for this stage which can hold nearly 1000 lobsters. It is a round tank with a floating carousel divided into small compartments for each lobster.

The filtered water is fed into the tank gently spinning the carousel to ensure all compartments get a fresh, filtered water supply.

The lobster juvenile stage requires lots of space and lots of manpower to feed and clean the lobsters.

We would recommend keeping some lobster past stage 4 for research or education purposes however if your main aim is fisheries enhancement then the space needed, cost of equipment and operation and especially manpower required outweigh the benefits of keeping all of the lobsters for longer.

“The Lobster Pod system is an effective piece of equipment that has the potential to transform our fisheries industries here and abroad. It appears essential for the sustainability and responsible stewardship of our seas and resources by limiting losses. This is naturally beneficial for our environment, suppliers and ultimately the end consumer.”


Juvenile lobster release

It is very rare to find juvenile lobsters less than about a year old in the wild and it seems to be a bit of a mystery as scientific research is yet to come up with any answers. This is one of the main reasons that European hatcheries grow juveniles larger than stage 4 prior to release. In comparison American lobster juveniles are easily sampled in the wild by divers and inhabit shallow boulder cobble and gravel below the low water mark.

We have found stage 4-6 juvenile lobsters in the wild on a couple of occasions on the East coast of Scotland and in the Firth of Forth. At these sites they were found in the low intertidal zone buried 30cm deep in coarse gravel and cobble. This has led us to believe that the best sites for stage 4 lobster release is in coarse clean gravel at low water spring tides which can be done by foot on the shore. Lobster juvenile releases from boats and by divers are often used but shore release may be more suitable and is much more cost effective.

Todd Fish Tech have developed lobster hatchery technology which can produce environmentally fit juveniles. Our technology includes larval kreisels, juvenile systems, broodstock tanks, filtration and live food production. Our systems are cost-effective and have minimum operating costs.

We are also researching and developing multi-species technology including crawfish, langoustine and crab hatcheries.

We were delighted to have designed, manufactured and commissioned several lobster hatcheries throughout the UK.

Most recently we have supplied the systems for the new lobster hatchery in Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, for Wells Harbour Commissioners.

We are most proud of our work at the lobster hatchery for Amble Development Trust at the Seafood Centre in Northumberland. This is a really great business model for hatcheries providing jobs for locals and semi-retired fishermen and space for local businesses alongside the hatchery visitor centre as well as a fishmonger stocked with locally caught fish and shellfish. It’s well worth a visit if you are in the area.

We designed, manufactured and installed the Seascope Lobster Hatchery and visitor centre in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland.

We completed a refit of the hatchery equipment for the National Lobster Hatchery, Padstow, Cornwall in 2005.

We supplied Lobster hatchery equipment including tanks and kreisels to Lake District Coast Aquarium in Maryport, Cumbria.

Our Research and Development Director, marine biologist Dr Keith Todd, has also authored several papers and feasibility studies on lobster hatcheries including work for Scarborough Borough Council, Firth of Forth Lobster Hatchery and Marine Scotland.

We continue our work in-house to further develop hatchery Fish Tech. We built and continue to operate a lobster hatchery offering our lobster tank customers the chance to rear some of their own stock for release. One of our customers based in Tarbert, Argyll provided the broodstock females. His one tonne lobster, langoustine and crab holding system is still working well 22 years after we installed it!

Our in-house spiny lobster Palinurus elephas hatchery is making progress and is our Research & Development Director, Dr Keith Todd’s pet project.

A sustainable fishery needs to sow before it reaps. It is socially and environmentally responsible to give something back. Our vision is to create a network of multi-species hatcheries around the UK coastline.

If you would like to learn more about our systems please get in touch