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Recent development on lobster farming in Norway
– prospects and possibilities



Pictures by Rudolf Svensen

Text by:
Asbjørn Drengstig1*, Tormod Drengstig2 & Tore S. Kristiansen3

1 Norwegian Lobster Farm AS, Stavanger, Norway
* Corresponding author;
2 Stavanger University College, Stavanger, Norway
3 The Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway

Due to a high market demand, low wild catches and a continuing increase in prices, the European lobster has become a promising candidate for closed-cycle and controlled aquaculture. In 2000, the company Norwegian Lobster Farm AS initiated an extensive R&D project on the European lobster, in cooperation with the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen and Stavanger University College. The research facilities are located on Kvitsøy, an island on the south-western coast of Norway. The project includes R&D work on biology, technology, feed, market, monitoring of water quality, health management and comparative studies on single cages vs. communal rearing systems. The aims of the project are to explore the possibilities and potentials of producing the European lobster in land-based facilities using re-circulation of seawater.

The only operating lobster hatchery in Norway today, is the one located on the Kvitsøy island. Moreover, Norwegian Lobster Farm AS is the first and only company in Norway focusing on land-based production of plate-sized lobsters. In this article, focus will therefore be given to this company and the results obtained from this project.


Recent developments
Several projects have been conducted in Norway on the European lobster, although most of them have focused on stock enhancement and sea ranching purposes. The most extensive projects was a lobster hatchery with production capacity of 130,000 juveniles for sea ranching per year established by the Tiedemann company (1981-1994) and the sea ranching programme PUSH conducted by Institute of Marine Research (1990-2001). In the PUSH programme 125,000 juveniles were tagged and released around Kvitsøy and gave recaptures of 7% market sized lobsters. All these projects have provided scientists with knowledge on juvenile production, general population biology, growth, fecundity, mortality and migration. Furthermore, the ongoing project has provided and still provides us with updated knowledge on more commercial aspects on land-based farming practices.

New law ensures exclusive harvesting rates in licensed areas
A new law ensuring property rights to released sedentary invertebrates was approved by the Norwegian Parliament in 2000. This law will be put into full effect from 1 January 2003, and ensures exclusive harvesting rights in specific areas for decapods, molluscs and sea urchins to persons holding a proper license. This new act has promoted an increasing commercial interest in lobster sea ranching in Norway, and a tenfold companies have been established during the past two years. These companies are located along the entire Norwegian coastline, and most of them are now ready to apply for licenses and start commercial sea ranching.

To establish sea ranching of lobster as a commercial and viable industry, an important prerequisite is access to a large amount of cheap and high quality lobster juveniles from commercial hatcheries. Hence, the company Norsk Hummer AS is planning to build a new large-scale factory for production of lobster juveniles for sea ranching purposes. Heating of water will be based on waste water heat from a methanol factory which reduces the energy demand. The production in this factory will be highly automated and a have a production capacity up to 2.4 million lobster juveniles annually. This factory will thus be able to produce a high quantity of lobster juveniles with good quality at low and acceptable price levels. Moreover, some small-scale hatcheries are also being planned. The main advantage of small hatcheries are smaller building and operational costs, smoother logistics arrangements (e.g. transportation) when using local brood-stock and may therefore become compatible to large-scale factories.


Land-based farming
In the past, the development of land-based farming has been severely hampered by lack of suitable technology and production methods, where the major constraints have been the need for single rearing cages to avoid cannibalism, need of heated water, lack of high quality dry food, high labour costs, inadequate technological solutions and high investment costs. Thus, the focus on the ongoing project has been to develop adequate solutions that can remove these constraints, while still ensuring good water quality, nutrition and welfare for the lobsters.

Results from the ongoing project at Kvitsøy
The preliminary results indicate that it is possible to farm lobsters from hatching to market size (plate size; 250-300 grams) in 24-30 months. The growth rates of large juveniles fed commercial dry cod feed (Danafeed) have so far been close to the results obtained in similar feeding experiments with European lobster using natural feed (Wickens & Beard 1991) (see Figure 1). However, due to the lack of pigments in the feed we got blue lobsters. The good growth rates gave reasons to believe that only smaller changes in the receipts are necessary to obtain a good lobster feed. A new lobster feed with three different levels of astaxantin have now been produced in two different pellet sizes, and feeding experiments have been initiated to find the minimum astaxantin contents necessary in the feed to ensure natural pigmentation of the lobsters. Results from this experiment will be available at the end of summer 2003.


Read part two

If you want to know more about lobster farming:



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