If you love taking long walks around Cornwall’s coastal trails and harbours, you’ll notice lobster pots neatly lined up and ready to be utilised. Traditionally, lobster pots featured a wooden base with a frame made of hazel or bamboo cane. They are currently primarily constructed with a coated steel frame. These frames are encased in netting that is held in place by a rope wrapped around the frame. Rubber is wrapped around the pot’s bottom to protect both it and the seabed.
It is now customary to place a plastic tray in the bottom of the pot to prevent the crabs’ and lobsters’ limbs from slipping through the bottom bars and becoming injured. Another common modification is an escape gap, which is drilled into the pot’s side to allow small animals to escape. Every fisherman makes a pot uniquely so that it may be identified by them.
Zero Waste Bait
As part of our efforts on Zero Waste, we often provide our local fishing fleets with fish waste to be re-used as bait for their lobster pots. We’ve found that the main waste product lobster enjoy are cod, mackerel and flounder, although virtually all bait is acceptable by our Cornish lobsters. Bait is usually secured in the pots using either a band or specially made bait bags, as you would traditionally see for freshwater fishing.
How Lobster Pots Work
Each pot is filled with a tiny amount of bait. The pots are connected in fleets of 25, 30, or 40. Each fleet is then launched from the boat’s stern to lie in lines down the seabed. To identify them, a labelled buoy is placed at either end of the fleet. Readings (latitude and longitude) are also taken for each fleet’s position so that the vessel can easily locate them the next time they go fishing. If the weather is terrible and boats can’t get to sea, these fleets are left for at least one night and occasionally up to a week. Then they are dragged back aboard and emptied. To safeguard the keepers, they are placed in fish boxes or giant drums known as bongos and wrapped with a damp cloth. To keep things fresh, they have fresh seawater washing over them. Anything that isn’t wanted is thrown back into the sea alive, just minutes after exiting the ocean. The pots are then rebated and returned to the seabed.
Sustainability of Lobster Pots
The pots do not harm the seabed, and any undersized or undesirable catch is returned to the sea alive after a free supper in the pot. Undersized shellfish, unlike fish, can be discarded without injury. When lobster pots are left on the seafloor, they behave as micro reefs. They, like any hard surface underwater, attract life. Various seaweeds and mussels have been observed attaching to the pots, so creating a new environment. This has the added benefit of spreading life across the seafloor by giving an additional food supply.