Lobster Kindergarten: Hirtshals could become lobster capital in a few years
A small one-room apartment in a "lobster kindergarten." This is how hundreds of tiny lobster larvae start life at Nordsøen Oceanarium.
The aim is to restore lobster life on the reefs in the stretch of sea between Hirtshals and Løkken after years of overfishing. If the project succeeds, it could send Hirtshals on a true lobster adventure.
The project is welcomed from everywhere, and local fishermen supply the spawning lobsters, which provide the eggs for farming. If the project succeeds, sustainable lobster fishing will once again be possible in the area, to the benefit of restaurants, the fishing industry - and Hirtshals as such.
"There has been overfishing for many years, and that is what we are now working to repair by restoring the population of black lobsters on the reefs. "
So says Martin Riis, Aquarium Manager at Nordsøen Oceanarium. Here, Nordsøens Forskerpark, which is housed under the same roof, has taken an active role in reversing this development in collaboration with local fishermen, local associations and DTU Aqua, among others.
Martin Riis talks about the little lobsters in front of the white cylinder, which currently holds 565 tiny little lobsters. Not many days ago, he boarded a small boat to release a new flock of lobsters to join those already released at the reefs.
He has no doubt that the project has the seeds of greatness.
Because there are many perspectives in the lobster project and the story of sustainability, which Hirtshals would also like to be a bigger part of.
"There is no doubt that if we here in Hirtshals are world champions in sustainable lobster fishing, it will bring attention to the city, because we have a sustainable project, can supply lobsters to restaurants, but also work for our local fishermen," says Martin Riis.
Lobsters in their own lobster kindergarten
The little lobsters live in separate "apartments" in what Nordsøen Ocenarium affectionately refers to as the "lobster kindergarten," and there is a very special reason for this.
"Well, they are cannibals, and they will eat each other without mercy if we don't keep them separate," says Martin Riis with a shake of the head.
Right now, 565 of them are in a large cylinder, a so-called aqua hive, specially designed for lobsters, each in their own little "apartment".
The lobsters are released on the reefs at Hirtshals, Lønstrup and Hirtshals when they are 2-3 months old, either with the help of divers or by "pulling" a large 25-meter towed hose on the seabed at a depth of 12-16 meters.
The project, which has been running since 2018, is fortunately progressing, and in six months, 5,000 lobsters have been prepared for release, and if everything goes as planned, fine ½-kilogram black lobsters can be fished, ready to sail into the city's restaurants in 4-6 years, says Martin Riis.
Lobster as a local delicacy
"It will be great to get the stock up again, because the project out on the reefs will also make the lobsters more accessible in terms of price," says Simon Emil Christensen, owner and chef at the local Restaurant Abstrakt. The restaurant is looking forward to the return of lobster fishing as a regular fishing opportunity and not the by-catch that black lobsters often are in fishermen's nets.
Black lobster is not something that is served very often in the restaurant, and Simon Emil Christensen estimates that it is probably about once a week.
On the other hand, Simon Emil Christensen has no doubt that the story with the lobsters on the local reefs can help attract new guests to Hirtshals and the town's restaurants.
"It's not just the locals who talk a lot about these lobsters. There are many people here in the restaurant who mention it when they come here.
"And from our point of view, it is in no way charming to have an endangered animal on the menu, and therefore it would be fantastic if the stock returns to what it once was," he says.
A really good story
At Destination Nordvestkysten, which, together with a number of local actors and the local tourist association, is behind Hook & Cook, which takes place in Hirtshals on Saturday, September 10, there is also enthusiasm about the little lobsters in the lobster kindergarten.
"It is a fantastic story and initiative in itself, but it is also one of those initiatives that can help attract new target groups of tourists to Hirtshals, because the story has both a sustainable angle due to the fact that the lobsters can be landed locally, but also because it supports the DNA of Hirtshals by providing work for the fishermen, but in a new form, because it does away with the overfishing of the past," says Belinda Brix Bertelsen, project manager at Destination Nordvestkysten.
For further information, please contact:
Martin Riis, Nordsøen Oceanarium, 23 48 56 96
Belinda Brix Bertelsen, 41 91 11 63.