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New project aims to make large-scale lobster farms feasible

Harbor Branch scientists have received new funding for a research program they hope will make large-scale culturing of spiny lobster economically feasible. The project is based on the serendipitous discovery that lobster larvae are settling on open water fish cages in Puerto Rico by the thousands. The research, along with the some of the lobster's more fascinating habits such as their tendency to crawl in huge single-file lines when crossing open areas between island coasts and reefs, will be the focus of the next Harbor Branch Ocean Science Lecture Series event, on March 9.

"Spiny lobsters are one of the most highly-prized fisheries species in the world, and especially in our Florida waters," said Megan Davis, director of Harbor Branch's aquaculture program. "Our research at Harbor Branch is very exciting because we expect to make breakthroughs in diet development and growout of juveniles that will help to make the culture of this species a reality, " she said.

Spiny lobster is an ideal target for commercial culture due to its high value and limited availability from wild capture, mostly using traps. Each year, 3 to 4 million pounds of Florida spiny lobsters valued at about $17 million are harvested and account for 11% of the spiny lobsters on the U.S. market. Overfishing of lobster has also led to ecological problems in some areas that might be relieved through successful culture and release to the wild.

The main barrier to successful commercial spiny lobster culture, which has been explored through pilot programs in various countries, has been the need to collect larvae from the wild. The lobster larval growth cycle is extremely complicated and as yet reproduction and growth to adulthood has not been accomplished in captivity in reliable numbers.

Development of collection methods to get enough larvae to support large-scale commercial culture has so far not been possible, but in 2003 technicians with Puerto Rico- based Snapperfarm, I
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Source:Harbor Branch


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