Lobster farming in india
Lobsters are highly valued seafood delicacies that are in high demand in international markets. Lobster farming is a process of raising lobsters in controlled conditions for commercial purposes. Lobster farming can be a viable and lucrative option for aquaculture, as lobsters have favourable characteristics such as tolerance to high stocking density, communal living without cannibalism, acceptance of pelleted feed and strong market demand.
Different Types of Lobsters
There are different types of lobsters that can be cultured for profit. In India, the most promising species are:
- Spiny lobsters: These are lobsters that do not have claws on the front of the body, but have large antennae and spines on the carapace and abdomen. They are also known as rock lobsters. Some of the common species are Panulirus homarus, P. ornatus, P. polyphagus and P. versicolor.
- Slipper lobsters: These are lobsters that have flattened bodies and enlarged antennae, but lack claws. They are also known as shovel-nosed lobsters. Some of the common species are Thenus orientalis, T. unimaculatus and Ibacus peronii.
- Clawed lobsters: These are lobsters that have five pairs of walking legs and three pairs of claws, with the first pair being much larger than the others. They are also known as true lobsters. Some of the common species are Homarus americanus, H. gammarus and Nephrops norvegicus.
The availability of lobster seeds is one of the major challenges for lobster farming in India. Currently, there are no land-based lobster hatcheries in India, and the seeds have to be sourced from the wild or imported from other countries. The wild seeds are mainly collected from artisanal gears such as trammel nets, gill nets and traps, especially in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. The seeds are usually post-larvae or juveniles that have settled on the sea floor after undergoing a planktonic phase.
The hatchery production of lobster seeds is yet to be achieved, though some progress has been made in recent years. The captive breeding of spiny lobsters such as P. homarus, P. polyphagus, P. ornatus, P. longipes and P. versicolor has been successfully done in India. The phyllosoma larvae of P. homarus have been reared to stage 8 in 42 days with a mixed diet of Artemia and plankton. The slipper lobster T. orientalis has also been bred and hatched in captivity, and its seed production has been established.
The site selection for lobster farming is an important factor that affects the growth, survival and profitability of the culture system. The site should have the following characteristics:
- Adequate water quality and quantity: The water should be clean, clear, well-oxygenated and free from pollutants and predators. The water temperature should be between 25°C to 30°C, the salinity between 25 ppt to 35 ppt, the pH between 7.5 to 8.5 and the dissolved oxygen above 5 mg/l.
- Suitable bottom substrate: The bottom substrate should be sandy or muddy with some rocks or artificial shelters to provide hiding places for the lobsters.
- Protection from natural calamities: The site should be sheltered from strong waves, currents, storms and floods that can damage the culture system or cause escapes or mortality of the lobsters.
- Accessibility and infrastructure: The site should be easily accessible by road or water transport for seed stocking, feed supply, harvesting and marketing. The site should also have adequate facilities for water supply, electricity, storage, processing and waste disposal.
There are different types of culture systems that can be used for lobster farming in India. These include:
- Cage culture: This is a method of growing lobsters in net cages that are suspended in the water column or attached to floating structures such as rafts or buoys. The cages can be rectangular, cylindrical or spherical in shape, and can vary in size depending on the number and size of the lobsters to be stocked. The cages are usually made of nylon or polyethylene netting with a mesh size of 2.5 cm to 5 cm. The cages should have adequate openings for water exchange and feeding, and should be covered with lids or nets to prevent escapes or predation. The cages should be checked regularly for fouling, damage and maintenance.
- Pond culture: This is a method of growing lobsters in earthen ponds that are dug or lined with plastic or concrete. The ponds can range from 0.1 ha to 1 ha in size, and can have a depth of 1 m to 2 m. The ponds should have an inlet and outlet system for water exchange, and should be aerated with paddle wheels or blowers to maintain dissolved oxygen levels. The ponds should also have artificial shelters such as PVC pipes, bamboo mats, coconut shells or bricks to provide hiding places for the lobsters. The ponds should be fenced with wire mesh or netting to prevent escapes or predation.
- Tank culture: This is a method of growing lobsters in tanks that are made of concrete, fiberglass or plastic. The tanks can vary in size from 1 m3 to 100 m3, and can have a depth of 0.5 m to 1.5 m. The tanks should have a water supply and drainage system, and should be aerated with air stones or diffusers to maintain dissolved oxygen levels. The tanks should also have artificial shelters such as PVC pipes, bamboo mats, coconut shells or bricks to provide hiding places for the lobsters. The tanks should be covered with lids or nets to prevent escapes or predation.
The stocking density of lobsters depends on the type and size of the culture system, the size and species of the lobsters, the availability of feed and shelter, and the water quality and management. Generally, the stocking density can range from 5 to 50 lobsters per m2 for cage culture, from 10 to 100 lobsters per m2 for pond culture, and from 20 to 200 lobsters per m3 for tank culture. The lobsters should be graded and sorted according to their size and sex before stocking, and any diseased or injured lobsters should be removed. The lobsters should be acclimatized to the water temperature and salinity of the culture system before stocking, and should be handled gently to avoid stress or damage.
The feeding of lobsters is one of the most important aspects of lobster farming, as it affects the growth, survival and profitability of the culture system. Lobsters are omnivorous animals that feed on a variety of food items such as fish, molluscs, crustaceans, algae, detritus and artificial feed. The feed requirements of lobsters depend on their size, species, activity level and environmental conditions. Generally, the feed ration can range from 3% to 10% of the body weight per day for juveniles, and from 1% to 5% of the body weight per day for adults. The feed frequency can vary from once to twice a day depending on the availability and palatability of the feed.
The feed quality is also important for lobster farming, as it affects the health and nutrition of the lobsters. The feed should have a balanced composition of protein, lipid, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals that meet the nutritional requirements of the lobsters. The feed should also have a good water stability, digestibility and attractiveness that enhance the feed intake and utilization of the lobsters. The feed can be either natural or artificial, or a combination of both.
Natural feed: Natural feed refers to the food items that are available in the natural environment or supplemented from external sources. Natural feed can include fish, molluscs, crustaceans, algae, detritus and other organic matter that are collected from the sea or freshwater sources, or purchased from local markets or suppliers. Natural feed can provide a variety of nutrients and stimulate the natural feeding behaviour of the lobsters. However, natural feed can also have some disadvantages such as high cost, low availability, variable quality, disease transmission and environmental pollution.
Artificial feed: Artificial feed refers to the food items that are formulated and manufactured by commercial companies or research institutions. Artificial feed can include pellets, granules, flakes or powders that are made of fish meal, soybean meal, wheat flour, corn gluten meal, fish oil, vegetable oil and other ingredients that are mixed with binders, preservatives and additives. Artificial feed can provide a consistent quality and quantity of nutrients that meet the specific requirements of the lobsters.
The harvesting of lobsters depends on the market demand and the size and weight of the lobsters. Generally, lobsters can be harvested when they reach a minimum marketing size of 200 g to 300 g for spiny lobsters, 100 g to 150 g for slipper lobsters and 500 g to 700 g for clawed lobsters. The harvesting period can vary from 6 months to 12 months depending on the culture system, the feed quality and the environmental conditions.
The harvesting of lobsters should be done gently and carefully to avoid damage or stress to the lobsters. Lobsters should be scooped by using nets or baskets and transferred to holding tanks or containers with seawater. Lobsters should not be exposed to freshwater or rainwater, as they can die quickly. Lobsters should also be handled with gloves or tongs to avoid injury from their spines or claws.
The marketing of lobsters is one of the most profitable aspects of lobster farming, as lobsters have a high market value and demand in domestic and international markets. Lobsters can be marketed in different forms such as live, frozen, cooked or processed. However, live lobsters are the most preferred and fetch the highest price, especially in affluent countries such as Japan, China, USA and Europe.
The marketing of lobsters requires proper transportation and storage facilities to maintain the quality and freshness of the lobsters. Live lobsters should be transported in insulated boxes or tanks with seawater, ice or wet seaweed. Live lobsters should be stored in holding tanks or cages with adequate aeration and water exchange. Frozen or cooked lobsters should be transported and stored in refrigerated containers or freezers.
The marketing of lobsters also requires compliance with the quality standards and regulations of the importing countries. Lobsters should be free from diseases, parasites, contaminants and residues that can affect their safety and quality. Lobsters should also have a certificate of origin, health and inspection that can verify their source and status.
Lobster farming is a promising and profitable venture for aquaculture in India. Lobsters have favourable characteristics that make them suitable for culture in different systems such as cages, ponds or tanks. Lobsters have a high market value and demand that can generate income and employment for farmers and fishermen. However, lobster farming also faces some challenges such as seed availability, hatchery technology, feed quality, disease management and environmental impact that need to be addressed by research and development.