Cold weather has arrived and the Zone C Lobster Hatchery in Stonington has closed up after its first season of operation.

“It was a successful shakedown year on two fronts — we released almost 40,000 lobsters on sites fishermen identified and we learned a lot about what we are going to have to do to monitor their survival in the wild,” said Ted Ames, hatchery manger.

To raise those 40,000 lobsters, the hatchery staff spent the summer refining the hatchery systems to fit the specific circumstances of this new hatchery including refining and improving pumps, water filters, back-up generation, and quality control procedures. Throughout, they consulted with both regional and international scientists to learn the complex and technical process of hatcheries.

The lobsters were released on sites in eight of the nine districts of State Lobster Management Zone C, which runs from Matinicus to North Haven and Blue Hill. Sites were identified by Zone C fishermen. They needed to be near locally depleted coves and to have the right kind of cobble bottom. (For specific locations, please visit

From the beginning, the Zone C Lobster Hatchery has committed to trying to monitor the survival of the lobsters they release – not easy since the lobsters are too small to be tagged. At a collaborative workshop attended by Zone C fishermen and scientists last April, the group designed a monitoring strategy that would involve repeat dive monitoring on the release sites for two years followed by tagging and trapping using juvenile traps.

The first dive monitoring was done this summer working with Dr. Rick Wahle of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and fishermen who provided their boats for Wahle’s dive team. It appears from these early results that stage IV post-larval lobsters (less than14 days old) may not settle where they are released, whereas stage V lobsters (less than 28 days old) do. While this may have no impact on the survival of the stage IV lobsters, it simply means that they would not be able to be tracked as planned.

The research is still inconclusive and may take several years to complete, but a great deal has been discovered about larval lobsters and their behavior after release. Next season, in addition to raising and releasing stage IV lobsters, the hatchery will try raising stage V lobsters and continue to gain more knowledge towards answering the question that has eluded scientists for more than a decade: Can hatchery-reared lobsters be a useful tool to support the lobster fishery’s productivity and enhance depleted stocks?

The Zone C Hatchery is a community-supported hatchery built in a donated building at the Stonington Lobster Co-op. Funds for construction and operation come from tax deductible donations from lobstermen and community members, towns in Zone C, and Penobscot East Resource Center.

For more information, please contact Penobscot East Resource Center at (207) 367.2708