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Life at Newlyn Harbour

Catching a Cornish Lobster

The bustling Newlyn Fish Market comes alive from 4am every morning, as fishing vessels arrive at Newlyn Harbour to land their catch.

But how do you catch a Cornish Lobster? The most common approach is to use traps, often known as ‘lobster pots’ that rest on the seafloor. The lobster that are landed at Newlyn Harbour have been caught in this way.

There are different types of lobster pots, depending on the type of lobster you’re looking to catch. The species that are found in Cornish waters are the Common Lobster and the Spiny Lobster.


Lobster Species in Cornwall

The Common Lobster has big front pincers, one for crushing and one for tearing, a dark blue body, long red antennae and a fanned tail.

The Spiny Lobster, also known as Crawfish, Rock Lobster or Crayfish in different parts of the UK, is an orange/brown colour, covered in spines and has small hook-like front claws.

Both species are nocturnal, feeding and scavenging at night while hiding away during the day. The females also carry their fertilised eggs around on their legs for months, when they are known as ‘berried’; this is to protect them from predators.


Regulations and Lobster Protection

To ensure the British lobster species are in plentiful supply for years to come, there are lots of important regulations in place.

Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (CIFCA) manages sea fisheries and the marine environment around Cornwall’s coast. They set the guidelines for the lobsters caught around the county, and issue licences for commercial fishing boats that wish to land over two lobster or crawfish each day.

Other rules include minimum sizes for each species, trap designs, and the fact that any ‘berried’ lobsters, and those with a damaged tail or a V-shape notch, must be returned to the sea.


Catching a Lobster

Traditionally, lobster pots were made from willow, however today they are constructed from steel with a nylon net. It is also necessary to have some bait, such as dead fish or raw chicken, to entice the lobsters into the pot.

All traps should have an escape hole for smaller lobsters, and a biodegradable panel that will allow any trapped lobsters to escape, should the pot get lost.

Once the pots are correctly labelled, the bait is set and the marker buoy is attached, the pots are lowered to the seafloor. Modern technology such as hydraulic haulers and quick-loading traps mean that fishing vessels can work through a larger number of pots on a line, known as a ‘string’.

Lobster pots are checked on a regular basis, from every few hours to every couple of days. The pots are hauled up, emptied, re-baited and lowered again. Any lobsters that don’t meet the regulations are then returned to the sea, with the remaining catch brought back to shore to be sold.