SCOTLAND’S luckiest lobsters are enjoying life in the Firth of Forth – knowing they can’t be eaten.
A number of female lobsters have been returned to the sea sporting a protective new “v-notch” marking in their tail.
Fishermen are bound by law to return the creatures to the waters so that they can breed and help increase their numbers around Europe.
A whole Lobster – weighing up to 13lbs – can easily fetch £60 in a restaurant. European catches have dropped from as much as 1,000 tonnes annually to as little as 30 tonnes.
The Firth of Forth Lobster Hatchery is trying to help reverse the trend by rearing and returning the lobsters.
The charity, based in North Berwick, East Lothian, buys egg-producing females, known as berried hens, from local fishing crews before using them to rear youngwhich are released into the Firth of Forth.
Their website explains: “We plan to release tens of thousands of juvenile lobsters into the Firth of Forth every year.
“This will benefit the fishing communities and strengthen the local marine ecosystem, hopefully leading to an increase in populations of crabs, langoustines and oysters.”
They add: “The Hatchery works closely with local fishermen who catch for us and later release the berried hens.
“As it can take five years or more for a female lobster to become able to produce eggs, which she can do so for an estimated forty years, we highlight to the public the potential risks of overfishing our UK lobster stock, especially females.”
Filtered sea-water is taken directly from the Forth and monitored by technicians monitor to make sure the quality and temperature is maintained.
Close to release time, the V-notched females spend time acclimatising to sea temperatures in a tank in the “hen room”.
From there they are released into the Forth by divers onto the sea floor or by technicians into rock pools at low tide.
Members of the public are also being offered the chance to sponsor and name the berried hens for £10 each.
Four lucky lobsters, Derek, Snimpy, Darcy and Maa-oy,were released from the Isle of May on Tuesday sporting their new markings.
Sponsored critters including Crabbie, Nippy, Sandy, Sebastian, Snappy, Leela Lollipop and JJ-Caff were also released into the forth earlier this month.
In 2014 Norway’s Institute of Marine Research released a report showing significant decline in european lobster.
They reported that up until the 1960s, catches were between 600 and 1,000 tonnes each year.
However in the past 25 years the official catch rate was under 100 tonnes and varied as low as between 30 and 60 tons each year.
It’s currently an offence under the Lobsters and Crawfish (Prohibition of Fishing and Landing) (Scotland) Order 1999 to land lobsters bearing a v-notch, or mutilated in such a way as to obscure a v-notch.
A spokesman for Scottish Natural Heritage said: “Lobsters are in important part of Scotland’s marine biodiversity, and provide a valuable catch for inshore fishermen.
“We are supportive of management measures intended to support responsible and sustainable fishing for lobsters, and V-notching is one such measure to help ensure healthy populations of lobsters continue in our seas’.”