Our Fieldtrip to the South Wexford Fisherman's Co-op

On Wednesday, December 13th 2000 our class travelled to a lobster hatchery in Carne, Co. Wexford. Our teachers Ms. O'Connell and Mr. Kelly travelled with us. A half-mile from the lobster hatchery the bus couldn't take us any further as the road became too narrow, so we had to walk the last lap.

Eventually we reached a big green shed with South Wexford Lobster Fisheries Co-op written above the door. Nicoletta Perella, a marine biologist from Italy and Carlos, a student from Madrid, welcomed us.

Our class divided into 3 groups of 11 children from the purposes of the tour and each group went in separately. When we went in Nicoletta first showed us a hen or berried lobster. This lobster had more than 3,000 dark green eggs on her underside. These eggs were not ready to hatch. The next lobster we saw had red eggs and that meant that they were ready to hatch. The berried lobsters are kept in a dark room to encourage the mothers to hatch. Each lobster is kept in a separate basin. When Claire looked into a basin, a berried lobster lunged at her with its claws raised. This was a sign that the lobster was fearful and ready to attack.

When the eggs are hatched they are collected using a little net and brought to the 'hopper'. The hopper is a basin which has air pumped into it from underneath. This forces the water to swirl around which allows the larvae to float, otherwise they would simply sink to the bottom. The temperature of the water is kept at 16C, which encourages the larvae to grow quickly.

They are fed shrimp cysts, which are imported from the America. The Artemia costs 100 per tin. They add warm water to the shrimp cysts to bring them to life and they are then fed to the larvae.

Larvae moult 3 times as they pass from stage 1 to stage 2and 3. Moulting means they shed their skin, and we discovered that the larvae eat their skin after moulting.

After the larval stage they become juveniles. They are no longer kept in the hopper but are placed in separate trays. Here they are fed krill.

At stage 7 they are released back into the sea. They are taken out in a boat and are lowered down a long tube to the bottom of the sea. They now swim towards the rocks and hide underneath.

The survival rate in the wild is 1% and in the hatchery this increases to 30%-40%. The hatcheries purpose is to produce young lobsters to increase the lobster stock along the Wexford coast.

We also saw the lobsters being V-notched. Carlos removed a V-shaped piece from the second fin on the right hand side of the lobsters tail using a special notching tool. This is to protect the female lobster if caught by the fishermen. The fishermen are not allowed to land a lobster whose carapace is less than 90cm.

Finally we saw a lobster pot, it was shaped like a treasure chest. It is made of rope and steel. In the sea a buoy is attached to the pot by rope so it can be hauled to the surface. Sometimes a flag is attached to the buoy so it can be located in rough seas.

Another interesting fact we learned was that the lobster that loses a claw can easily regrow it. Lobsters can live to be a hundred and an 80 year old lobster was recently caught in Connemara.

Visiting the lobster hatchery was an indescribable experience. We were in awe. It was interesting and fun! So thanks Nicoletta and Carlos, it was a really great tour. We would recommend you go.

Our plan now is to grow lobsters in our classroom. For this we will need an aquarium where the juvenile lobsters can be kept in separated sections. The water will need changing at least once a month and will have to feed them regularly. When they are strong enough to survive we will release them back to the sea.

We invited Nicoletta to visit us in our classroom and give us some tips in caring for our lobsters.

Ms. O'Connells's Fifth Class,
St. Mary's National School,
Ballygunner,
Waterford,
Ireland.