A juvenile lobster in the AIMS aquaculture facility being considered as a candidate for the lucrative aquarium trade. Image: James Woodford.

In the race to domesticate wild Australian lobster species for the seafood trade through aquaculture, 2009-10 has seen AIMS make major progress towards helping crack this very high value and globally sought after delicacy. On a per kilogram basis the spiny, or rock, lobsters are the most valuable of seafood, even more lucrative than the highly-prized bluefin tuna.

This year the Institute's researchers have successfully managed to get the lobster larvae, called phyllosomas, through the hatchery cycle on an artificial feed formulated and developed at our Townsville headquarters. This is thought to be a world first and a major step towards the development of a commercially viable hatchery technology for mass production of lobsters.

Artificial feeding is a major breakthrough on at least three fronts. It means the expensive and labour intensive food used until now –Artemia,also known as brine shrimp or sea monkeys – can be replaced with the readily available artificial feed formula. Secondly it reduces the risk of the introduction of potentially deadly pathogens because brine shrimp are ready carriers of a range of bacteria known to cause disease in lobsters. Thirdly, the shift to an artificial diet has also improved survival. This development is a major step forward towards up-scaling larval rearing and raises the possibility of being able to make sure that the artificial feeds contain probiotics – much as yoghurt consumed by humans contains ‘good bacteria'.