SIX new jobs have been created on Portland thanks to the first purpose-built lumpfish hatchery in the UK opening on the island.
The hatchery, based at the new Crabbers Wharf development in Castletown, came from a pilot project by the Native Marine Centre (NMC) and is helping combat the decline of salmon.
The salmon farming industry is hampered by parasitic sea lice, which lives off the mucus, skin and blood of the fish.
"Cleaner fish", which feed on the sea lice, have been introduced by salmon farms throughout Canada, Norway and Scotland to combat the problem but the primary cleaner fish used, the ballan wrasse, have been deemed unsuitable for use in many farms.
Lumpfish, or lumpsucker fish as they are also known, also feed on sea lice and are found in the waters surrounding Portland harbour.
A hatchery and nursery was established by the NMC in Portland Port following the successful spawning of wild-caught lumpfish during 2013.
The newly-established nursery now boasts 14 seven-tonne tanks and the first batch of 13,000 fish were sent to Scotland last year.
The lumpfish are caught locally and allowed to spawn in captivity before being released back into the wild.
The NMC, founded by Michael Webb, focuses on fish farming and has a specialist quarantine facility supplying universities and aquariums across the UK with marine life.
Mr Webb said: “Our plan is to put Weymouth and Portland on the map for its diverse marine life.
“I was once a heating engineer and a commercial fisherman and started collecting fish seven years ago.
“Our first investment at NMC gave us the opportunity to build our first large unit within Portland Port but there was no further space for expansion, so I approached Agincare to lease the building at Crabbers Wharf.”
Mr Webb added that the NMC has introduced land-based aquaculture farming to the area and is now working with Cefas to develop new research and development projects.
He said trained fishermen in the area are used to help the project and this is boosting the economy on the quay.
Mr Webb added: “Working with our fishermen who work at sea every day we soon managed to gain an amazing understanding of what lives on our local shores.
“We’re now looking to work more with conservation groups like Dorset wildlife trust and the Dorset Coast Forum in the future.”
South Dorset MP Richard Drax also recently took a tour of the hatchery while also visiting the area to discuss the Castletown regeneration project.
He welcomed news of the hatchery and added: “Castletown was, in its heyday, a thriving port for the Royal Navy but sadly this is no longer the case.
“The new hatchery is great news for the island and will hopefully encourage other businesses to move into the area.”
For more information about the project visit nativemarinecentre.com.