Research Projects

Modelling spiny lobster larval dispersal

In 2017, the Isles of Scilly IFCA led a research project in collaboration with Cornwall IFCA, Devon and Severn IFCA and CEFAS to model the dispersal of spiny lobster larvae. This species was caught throughout the south west until the collapse of stocks as fishing intensified through the 1980’s and early 1990’s. One of the only areas where this species is still regularly caught is the Isles of Scilly.

Spiny lobster is a priority species for conservation, and we need to ensure that we understand as much as we can about its natural history. The species is known for its long larval life span which can last between 5 and 12 months where they are carried by the ocean currents as plankton before they settle out on reefs and metamorphosing into juveniles.

CEFAS used a computer model which simulated the movement of the crawfish plankton around the English Channel and Celtic Sea. The model shows how our existing populations are very unlikely to be ‘self-seeding’ and would rely on recruitment from elsewhere. The Isles of Scilly for example would be reliant on recruitment from crawfish larvae from the northern coast of Spain and western coast of France. In turn, larvae produced here are carried to the southern coast of Ireland and west Wales. The research highlights the importance of planning networks of protected areas and managing fisheries on a regional scale that takes into account their whole life-cycle.

Modeling the Dispersal of Spiny Lobster (Palinurus elephas) Larvae:
Implications for Future Fisheries Management and Conservation Measures

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Lobster Tagging Project

This was a three-year project to study the distribution, reproduction, movement and growth patterns of European common lobster and the European crawfish. Both of these species are very valuable to the Isles of Scilly, but little is known about their ecology and the resilience of the population.

A Capture-Mark-Recapture tagging program was developed to provide a greater insight into their abundance and movement and help to ensure that conservation management are designed to safeguard them and the fisheries they support. This project worked closely with fishermen, using volunteers to collect data on lobsters and crawfish that were caught. Individuals were tagged and released. Over the life of the project fishermen were rewarded for returning recaptured tag data including the date and location of the recapture and the size of the individual.

Nearly 8,000 animals were sampled during the project (almost 90% of which were lobsters). The majority of lobsters were typically recaptured less than 500 metres from the release point, even more than 24 months after release.

Read the full report

lobster tagging
lobster tagging
lobster tagging
lobster tagging

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