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Spiny Green Lobster Hatchery Project

The Spiny Green Lobster Hatchery has Four Main Goals: 

  • To establish an enhanced source of juveniles in order to improve current local populations in the wild.

  • To provide juveniles as starting stock to new spiny lobster aquaculture operations in Nicaragua.

  • To provide an educational and informative exhibit about all stages of the lobster life cycle, the hatchery process and the aquaculture operations.

  • To provide a site where further research can be undertaken, looking at ways to improve husbandry and monitoring techniques for captive open-water lobster hatcheries.

Natural Reproduction Cycle

Female lobsters mate, then carry the developing eggs under their tails until they hatch. These females (berried hens) carry up to 20,000 eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae move towards the light (photo-positive), swimming in the plankton in the sea's surface waters. This allows them to use sea currents to disperse. During this period they undergo several molts, changing shape slightly each time until on the 3rd molt - known as Stage 4- they look like perfect miniature adults (about 2cm long). Due to their long exposure to predators, less than 1% of the original larvae will make it to this stage in the wild. The new juveniles then settle to the sea floor, sheltering under rocks and in crevices and scavenging for food. The juveniles will take 12-18 months to reach marketable size, depending on the water temperature and available food.

Gracilis Hatchery Plans

Historically, major universities with substantial funding support are required to build lobster hatcheries because the cost can exceed $10 million. The high cost is a consequence of two facts: 1) the very long larval cycle for the spiny lobster compared to other species such as oysters and clams and 2) existing spiny lobster hatcheries are research rather than production installations. Our Gacilis Hatchery will be a production prototype, the first (to our knowledge) open water production hatchery. With the help of expert consultants, it will be set up floating in open water to provide a captive and protected environment for portion of the spiny lobster life cycle from egg to juvenile. Because the custom structures will be made of inexpensive, readily available materials and will employ simple upwelling pumps to maintain a constant flow of fresh ocean water to the tanks, we target our cost to be less than $100,000. In addition to the constant flow of fresh ocean water carrying plankton to the larvae, the system will be augmented by supplemental feeding as needed.  Once the larvae have matured to juveniles, they will be installed in lobster aquaculture operations (farms). These grow-out facilities are made from specially designed, purpose-built artificial reefs installed on the sea floor at approximately 12 meters depth (see Pilot Project page)..


A budget of $70,000 will support a 2-year program including the construction of a 10-unit hatchery plus the operation and further development of methods and materials.

Appropriate Technology Objective

Our objective is to develop and refine a spiny lobster production hatchery structure and methodology that can be reproduced at an affordable cost using materials and technologies appropriate for developing countries.  If achieved, this spiny lobster aquaculture plus hatchery model could be replicated throughout the world in any impoverished or overfished region for the benefit of the local fishermen and their families.

Longer-Term Objectives

Support for these projects, including potential expansion of aquaculture and hatchery technologies to other species in addition to spiny lobster, would be enhanced significantly by invitation of visiting scientists and students who are experts in these fields. The projects could also provide opportunities for research by  Nicaraguan university students and education projects for local communities about the value of protecting marine environments.

One unit of the hatchery illustrated to show flotation in the open ocean.

One unit of the hatchery illustrated to show the netting that secures the tank to the floating platform.

Hatchery tank structure with an entrance for the upwelling pump and the exclusion filter.

Photo of spiny lobster puerulus, the post-larval form that becomes a juvenile lobster