Friday, 5 March 2010

Proposed Lobster Hatchery At North Berwick In Doubt

Last year, there were plans to create a lobster hatchery at North Berwick, and link the hatchery to the Seabird Centre, to allow it to expand it's charitable work.   It now appears that the plan is now in doubt and has been voted against by the Trustees of the Seabird Centre, citing finanacial concerns on the impact of running the Seabird Centre.  Details, taken from the Seabird Centre website, below :-

Plans for a proposed new lobster hatchery for North Berwick are now in doubt after the trustees of the Scottish Seabird Centre voted against proposals to extend the Centre to accommodate the hatchery.

A feasibility study undertaken by Jura Consultants indicated that such a facility would bring major positive, economic and environmental benefits for the area. Following extensive consultation with local businesses, fishermen, the local community and environmental organisations, Jura identified that the proposed hatchery would boost tourism, create jobs and help make lobster fishing in the Firth of Forth more sustainable.

Recommendations for the new attraction, the first of its type in Scotland were that it be sited at North Berwick Harbour, directly adjacent to the award-winning Seabird Centre, on the basis that the hatchery would benefit from proximity to the Centre, an established and highly successful five star visitor attraction which attracts almost 300,000 visitors a year, employs 50 staff and contributes £2million per annum to the economy.

A very successful lobster hatchery already operates in Cornwall which boosts tourism, supports local fishermen and undertakes scientific research. The proposed North Berwick hatchery would have operated in a similar way.

Unlike salmon farming, where stock is reared until it has matured, a lobster hatchery provides a “nursery” for the young lobsters. Female lobsters, with their eggs attached, are brought to the hatchery by local fishermen. After the eggs hatch, the larvae are reared until being released at just a few months old to mature, naturally, in the wild.

The study also recommended that the hatchery should also be used to help sustain local populations of crabs, langoustines and oysters. In the project, thousands of juvenile lobsters would have been released throughout the Firth of Forth every year, helping to sustain fishing communities along the coasts of East Lothian and Fife. In the wild, fewer than one per cent of lobsters survive beyond two weeks, but around 40 per cent of the young can be expected to survive in the hatchery.

The Seabird Centre is a self financing and non-profit making independent charity. It was felt by the charity's board that the additional financial risk of operating a lobster hatchery was too great and could have threatened the very survival of the Seabird Centre. In addition, a major fundraising campaign would have been required to raise the £2million plus needed to build the extension to house the hatchery.

Tom Brock, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre commented “the hatchery proposal is an excellent idea that would bring about a wide range of benefits. I am very disappointed that the hatchery plans are now in doubt although I do appreciate the Centre’s Trustees' responsibilities in ensuring that the charity is not put at unnecessary risk.”

Jane McMinn, Chair of the Hatchery Implementation Group commented, “We are extremely surprised and disappointed with this decision by the Seabird Centre's board, which was taken, despite the strong support of both the Centre's Chairman and Chief Executive for the project .

There is strong local support to create, here in North Berwick, the first hatchery of its type in Scotland with major long term benefits for everyone. This is a huge missed opportunity for the town.”

She continued, “This was an important conservation, environmental and sustainable project that had the support of many different interested parties; academic support, celebrity interest, local and Forth fishermen, seafood industry, commercial boat owners, North Berwick Community Council, East Lothian Yacht Club, North Berwick Harbour Trust Association, East Lothian Council all working openly together and I hope that something positive can come out of all the hard work and co-operation invested in the project to date.”

Commenting on the development, Managing Director of Jura Consultants, Paul Jardine said, “‘The Scottish Seabird Centre Board faced a difficult decision. The project’s feasibility has been examined with the capital costs, visitor market and income and expenditure all being considered. However, while such an examination can provide information to identify and consider the risks and uncertainties, it cannot remove the associated risks and uncertainties”.

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