This years  lobster v notching scheme is well underway , landings have been good all through the spring and have proved to be steady into the summer months , therefore helping with volume allowing Nifca to carry out their re-stocking of the female lobster berried hens .

? What is v notching ?  : well , since 2000 the government introduced a Plan to return Female Lobsters carrying eggs back to sea to allow them to re-produce in their own natural environment. Berwick Shellfish Company has supported this annual venture by supplying berried hens to Nifca at a reduced price allowing their budget to purchase as many female lobsters as possible , over the 13 years that it has been going , summer stocks have shown to be very encouraging , and as more investment in new boats etc in the local fleets this is a great sign of things to come .

We have attached NIFCA’s  report of last years programme :

Homarus gammarus also known as the common lobster or European lobster is a shelter seeking animal which is commonly found around all coasts of British Isles. H. gammarus is rarely found deeper than 50m, but can occur anywhere from the low tide mark to 150m, usually on hard substrates.

The two foremost limbs of lobsters are specialised into two large claws; one is large and blunt and designed for crushing whilst the other is sharper and slightly less bulky and used for slicing. The internal soft tissues of the body are protected by a rigid exoskeleton, the foremost part of which is the solid carapace and the hind portion is the articulating abdomen and tail, which can be contracted quickly to allow thrusting reverse swimming (Tully et al., 2006).

Lobsters grow in size by shedding their hard exoskeleton, which is a process known as moulting. As they moult, water is absorbed by the body tissues and this causes the lobster to swell and rupture the outer exoskeleton. Following this process, the new exoskeleton begins to harden. Newly moulted individuals are very vulnerable to predation at this time and are likely to remain in hiding until the new exoskeleton has hardened. This process is completed between a few hours or up to several weeks, depending on the size of the lobster and its availability of calcium. Once the lobster has moulted it consumes its old exoskeleton, providing the lobster with much needed calcium to solidify its new shell. During each moult, the lobster’s carapace length can increase by 10-15% and its total weight by up to 50%. Juvenile lobsters can moult up to 25 times in their first five years, and about once a week in their first month. Adult lobsters moult less frequently, with large adults, this may be as little as once every two years, but they keep growing throughout their lives.

Female lobsters reach sexual maturity between the ages of 5 and 7 years, when the carapace length is between 75-80mm. Mating usually occurs between a hard-shelled male and a soft, newly-moulted female (Atema, 1986). Spawning generally occurs in the summer months when female lobsters are said to be ‘berried’, the eggs are fertilized and are carried underneath the abdomen for 9-12 months. The eggs change colour as they develop, at first they are dark green, then turn black and finally turn red as the embryo develops. Hatching occurs over the several nights, as thousands are released at a time.

Since 2000, Northumberland Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority and its predecessor The Northumberland Sea Fisheries Committee have V-notched approximately 1000 lobsters per year and released them throughout their district. We hope to continue this scheme with the help of local wholesalers and fishermen.