As lobster condos, these were a flop.
"Never did we have more than five lobsters out
there," said Glyn Sharp, a marine biologist trying to
lure the lucrative shellfish to take up residence in 20,
specially-designed concrete balls in 10-metre waters off
"If you were renting these things, you wouldn’t be
making too much money, would you? . . . And it’s not
that there aren’t lobsters around McNabs. There are.
There’s a lobster fishing industry right here on the
Led by Mr. Sharp, researchers at the Bedford
Institute of Oceanography began looking at ways
artificial habitat could be created for lobsters in
2004, prompted by the need to find ways to compensate
for activities like infilling, dredging, putting in
underwater cables or pipelines, or even wharf
construction in coastal waters.
Using artificial reefs to enhance fish populations
isn’t new. The Japanese began doing it in the 1950s. And
over the decades, artificial reefs made of everything
from concrete and ships to cars and tires have been
tried worldwide — with varying degrees of success.
While the 500-kilogram reef balls, with their Swiss
cheese-like holes, didn’t draw lobsters in Halifax
Harbour, the scientists found them no more attractive to
tasty crustaceans in the more pristine waters of St.
Sure, a few of the old guys — hefty two-kilogram
bruisers that could fill an oversized dinner plate and
the like — settled in comfortably. But the juveniles
that researchers really hoped to attract to the reef
real estate stayed away, even as other species of
underwater life took hold.
It seems nothing suits a crusty critter like a random
pile of rocks, as the researchers first noticed inside
tanks in their BIO laboratory.
Piles of different sized rocks placed around McNabs
Island attracted lobsters within a couple of months —
more lobsters than had ever been found in the concrete
Researchers then set their sites on Sambro Harbour to
see what would happen if they put similar rock piles in
a place young lobsters weren’t likely to be found.
"We don’t just want to move animals around," he said.
"We want to create new production."
Piles of different sized rocks were carefully put in
place. Within a month, species such as snails and
starfish had moved in, and so had the lobsters.
It’s too early to reach conclusions about how well
the rock piles will work in the long run, but the
research team is hopeful.
"We’re hoping eventually these will become normal
lobster habitat and eventually fishermen will be able to
put their traps where they’ve never put their traps to
catch lobster. They’ll see some direct benefit and years
of information will come out of the project," Mr. Sharp
And although Mr. Sharp says he’s convinced concrete
balls aren’t the way to enhance lobster populations,
he’s not prepared to write them off completely.
Results so far indicate that the reef balls may be
very useful in creating kelp beds and more complex
underwater communities since all sorts of other
creatures are using them.
In fact, researchers will continue to monitor them
regularly — every two months at this time of year, every
month beginning in the spring — just as they plan to
monitor the rock piles, for at least the next three
"Write them off as far as lobster habitat is
concerned. I wouldn’t put any more out for that
purpose," he said, adding the scientists have already
advised Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials of
"But we know they are good for other plants and
animals to come on. We get a good diversity and they
enhance the productivity of the area. . . . We’re
learning so much from them that really they’re very