Hatchery clawing to world-first lobster run
A TROPICAL rock lobster hatchery at Toomulla has reported a first-ever commercial hatching of the highly sought-after crustacean.
Tasmanian company Ornatas is scaling up technology, based on University of Tasmania research, to breed the lobsters which are a valuable export industry but face limited potential based on wild-caught stocks.
Ornatas chief executive Scott Parkinson said they were part way through rearing the animals in the larval stage.
"It's going well. The ultimate holy grail is to complete the production run we have and produce the animals on a world-first basis. We have some hard work to do over the next six to eight weeks," he said.
Ornatas has reported hatching lobster larvae over Christmas and the team has been monitoring the larvae's progress.
The larvae have reached 50 days of development which hatchery manager Anna Overweter said was an important milestone. At 120 days they begin to develop the characteristics of a juvenile lobster.
Ms Overweter said it was an incredibly exciting time for the team.
"It was a challenging year last year as it was for most businesses, however, it's great to now have things moving forward in full swing at the hatchery," she said.
It will take another two years before the lobsters reach a marketable size for the restaurant trade.
Meanwhile, the hatchery will continue to scale up its production.
"Over the next few months, we will be looking at increasing our stock of wild broodstock so we can ensure we have a consistent supply of tropical rock lobster eggs year-round," Mr Parkinson said.
"The Toomulla beach hatchery is also undergoing rapid expansion to accommodate the arrival of more tropical rock lobster larvae from our broodstock throughout the year."
The facility has also been rearing Moreton Bay bugs which Mr Parkinson said had provided good training for staff.
The company is working with its partners at the University of Tasmania's ARC Research Hub for sustainable Tropical Rock Lobster aquaculture to identify key research needs as the hatchery program develops and grow-out operations begin.
The Queensland Government announced the hatchery development in 2019 after Tasmanian Lobster Hatchery acquired the former 267ha Prawns North facility at Toomulla for $3.3m.
Originally published as Hatchery clawing to world-first lobster run