2012-04-12 / Features

Students Learn Raising Lobsters Is Tedious Task

By Linda Conner Lambeck

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) – Sabrina St. Juste inserts her manicured hands into a deep vat of water to suction eggs from the bottom into a jar.

Five school mornings a week, St. Juste is a cog in an effort to restore lobsters to Long Island Sound.

“I am a hands-on learner, so this is fun,” said St. Juste, 15, a sophomore at Central Magnet School.

The lobster rearing project is an offshoot of a lobster V-notch program established by the state in 2006.

But the V-notch program became cost prohibitive because of insurance costs associated with putting high school students on commercial lobster boats. Also, the program did not run long enough for officials to determine if it had any impact on restoring a still critically low Long Island Sound lobster population.

In recent years, using eggs from lobsters supplied by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, both schools have started to rear lobsters. Students at the Sound School have been successfully culturing lobsters for some time. Aquaculture students started this year.

“We are doing exactly the same level of research (as the Sound School),” said John Curtis, director of the Aquaculture School. “Ultimately, we are trying to provide an awareness of the plight of the Long Island Sound lobster.”

Holly Turner, who teaches an Ecology of Marine Species class at the Aquaculture School, said students are working on ways to release the lab-cultured lobsters into the Sound without them being preyed upon. One idea is for students to build an artificial reef that could be used to protect lab-cultured lobster once the time comes.

Nathan Paulo, 16, a junior at Aquaculture and Central Magnet, said he believes it’s doable.

He and his classmates have already taken turns building “condos” for their lobster babies using slices of PCP piping glued together with wire mesh on bottom.

At Stage 5 maturity, the juvenile lobsters resemble bluetinged ants, swimming around in the circular condos. On a lower level, Stage 3 lobsters are in bubbling cauldrons of fresh sea water. The movement and bubbles makes it harder for the lobsters to dine on one another.

A morning and afternoon class takes turns rotating through jobs to keep the lobsters alive and fed.

Meghan McDonnell, a Stratford High School sophomore, feeds Stage 3 lobsters groundup ·shrimp.

Standing on top of overturned crates to reach the vats filled with about 175 Stage 4 lobsters, Stratton Tolme, a sophomore from Fairfield Ludlowe, uses a tube to draw out and clean the water. One or two have molted into Stage 5 lobsters, measuring more than an inch long. Juvenile lobsters can molt as many as 25 times before reaching adulthood.

Once a week, the water is drained so students can count how many live lobsters they have. The school started off with four “berried,” or egg-bearing, lobsters that have produced about 700 eggs each. So far, the school has about 175 Stage 4 post-larval juveniles. The 6.5 percent survival rate is better than the 1 percent produced in nature, Turner said.

“It’s painstaking work, having to change the water over and over again. We’ve been at this since Christmas,” said Michael Mitola , 16, of Stratford.

Turner said the project is giving students a good understanding of the lobster life cycle. In previous years, the Ecology of Marine Species class has raised oysters and clams that do eventually go to market. Oysters are easier though. It takes just six months to grow them before they are moved from hatchery to the school’s farm site to maturity.

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