Twenty two years ago, lifelong fisherman Edwin (Eddy) Derriman MBE, had a vision. The industry in Devon and Cornwall were faced with the galling reality, that lobster stocks in the South West fisheries were in decline and being continuously exposed to increased effort from both commercial and recreational sectors. This depletion in numbers of adult fish, gave grave cause for concern insomuch as Eddy knew that survival and succession in the industry depended on a sustainable fishery which would benefit the local communities for generations to come.
Combining forces with other likeminded stakeholders, he saw to it that a programme of stock-enhancing measures were adopted to minimise and mitigate the threat to the lobster populations in the local, inshore waters. A continuous and progressive agenda of research was organised, not only to develop the culture of Homarus gammarus, but to foster greater consumer awareness and interaction with a much loved and desired commercial species, that ranks so highly in the catch of so many fishermen in this part of the world.
The National Lobster Hatchery has become a Cornish and indeed national icon. Its charitable status as a pioneer in marine conservation, is unrivalled in the industry and has the tenets of sustainability, responsibility and traceability very much at its core. As the value and emphasis of lobster in the national catch increases, so does the work at the hatchery become equally important. Not only does their work involve the staple practice of restocking with fish nurtured in the hatchery from the eggs gathered from locally-caught “berried hens”, it has also now progressed to a new level, with the inception of the Lobster Grower 2 programme, an initiative that will see some 45,000 lobsters grown on at sea over the next 3 years, with the prime objective of gaining further insight and understanding into the species and its suitability and potential for larger scale commercial aquaculture.
But like all proactive charities, the Hatchery demands funding for its existence and continued growth. Over the past two decades, legacies, donations and the generosity of supporters, countrywide and abroad has ensured that the facilities on Padstow Quay, remain not only a progressive and forward thinking centre for research into this most ecologically valuable of species, but a welcoming and educational destination for seafood loving members of the public and holidaymakers alike.
And so with no recurrent government funding, opportunities for sponsorship and donation need to be encouraged and maximised. Last week saw the gathering of supporters, staff, friends and patrons, in the magnificent surroundings of Fishmongers Hall on London Bridge, for a charity dinner befitting of such splendour and an opportunity for those attending, to dig deep for such a worthy and essential cause.
I was lucky enough to be one of the guests on the night and as I sipped my champagne and marvelled at the history and provenance of one of the oldest, twelve great livery companies of the City of London, it was all too apparent to me, just what high esteem the Charity is held in.
The prime focus of the evening was to be the silent and live auctions, that constituted the core fund raising for the night. Suitably monikored “Lots4Lobsters” a total of 42 fantastic lots were up first and available to be silently bid for, from the tables, using the latest tablet technology, whilst dinner was being served. Culinary experiences from Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth were up for grabs, whilst stunning pieces from the likes of acclaimed Cornish artists, Henrietta Graham, Jethro Jackson and Kate Fairbairn, generated a great deal of interest. On our table, the erstwhile Hatchery Chairman, Mr Derriman secured 6 bottles of Pol Roger to his name and as the wine flowed, the enthused company ever more eagerly bid, on everything from hampers to holidays.
Well chosen words and an insight into the everyday work at the Hatchery and its many projects came from manager Dom Boothroyd and his enthusiastic Head of Research, Dr Carly Daniels, who both with much gratitude and at pains to point out the importance of the evening, brought us succinctly up to speed with the current and progressive status of the Charity.
The meal I have to say was exquisite, in every respect. Fishmongers’ resident chef, Steve Pini and his team, served us the most refined and befitting, cocktail of fresh lobster, as a starter, followed by a melt-in-the-mouth offering of herb and wild mushroom-filled Supreme of Guinea Fowl, memorably washed down with a 2015 Macon Villages Domaine Chene and a delightful 2012 Chateau Lanessan.
As the meal drew to a replete and satisfying close, a suitably-attired French chef appeared and having announced his impending departure from Fishmongers Hall, back to his country of birth to open his own “brasserie”, he lapsed into pitch-perfect song and caroused through the next few minutes, glass in hand, to the delight of the assembled guests. It was only upon the arrival of his “Maître d” who likewise broke into the most sensational operatic verse, did we realise that we had been fairly duped and sat back as yet another singing waiter joined the trio and gave us the most splendid of entertainment taking us from La Traviata to Nessun Dorma in a whirlwind of engaging song.
Cleverly organised by Mrs Jackie Stanley, long-term corporate sponsor and mother to Business Development Officer Clare, the delivery from the guys at Encore Entertainment, in their assumed roles, was simply inspired and generated much enjoyment for all. Having left the stage to rousing applause, the final act of the evening was presided over by Mr Nick Martineau from Christies. He instantly and ably engaged bidders in the live auction, with the star lot of the evening, an accompanied trip to Basra, with security consultant Simon James Hilliard, terminating proceedings in a crescendo of excitement and anticipation.
An incredible and beautifully orchestrated evening from start to finish. We left for the carriages having enjoyed not only fine food and top drawer entertainment, but had witnessed just how passionate and committed the friends of the National Lobster Hatchery have become and just how much it means for them to be able to support the charity at whatever level. Approximately £40,000 was raised as a result of the evening and with that level of generosity and commitment, the future of the Hatchery will be continuously assured.
Bravo to all involved. It was indeed, a night to remember…….
My grateful thanks to The National Lobster Hatchery and Clare Stanley for donating some of the photos.