Episode 5

Lobster Hatchery

  1. The Bayview Hatchery 1891 -1918
  1. Chapter Reference

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The Bayview Hatchery 1891 -1918

Lobster was one of the first fisheries to be regulated in the new Dominion of Canada after 1867. As early as 1870, catch size and weights were being monitored and by the late 19th century there was already a concern that lobster stocks were declining in the Northumberland Straight. In 1891 following a survey undertaken by Samuel Wilmot, Superintendent of Fish Culture, the first lobster hatchery in Canada was established at the Little Entrance of Caribou Harbour, then known as Bayview. The hatchery relied on local canneries and fishers to supply lobster eggs to incubate. With several canneries nearby including the American firm of Burnham & Morrell, the location was central to the thriving fishery.

Lobster hatching and seeding was practiced in Europe by the late 1700’s and Canadian scientists were familiar with the methods established in Norway. A hatchery in Dildo Island, Newfoundland managed by Norwegian Adolf Neilson was the model for the Bayview Hatchery. Lobster ova were incubated in large glass jars known as Wilmot jars that were constantly replenished with cold salt water. The hatchery was a simple shed lined with rows of shelves holding Wilmot jars fed by an overhead tap lining an upper shelf. The eggs grew into larvae, which, when sufficiently developed, were released into the waters of Northumberland Straight. Several million larvae were seeded into surrounding waters every year from the Bayview hatchery. By 1894, over 12 other hatcheries were established, 8 in Nova Scotia, 2 in New Brunswick and 2 in Quebec. The hatchery operations were considered to be very successful for a time but by 1917 there was no substantive evidence that seeding lobster larvae increased lobster stocks and the hatcheries were closed.

Now, 100 years later, lobster eggs are again being incubated at a new lobster hatchery in Pictou, Nova Scotia only a few kilometers from where the original Bayview hatchery stood.

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