First lobsters for Weymouth and Portland's artificial reef

Barge with Portland stone The aim of the reef is to boost lobster stocks

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The first lobsters are set to be released at an artificial reef off the Dorset coast during the summer.

About 1,750 tonnes of Portland stone was sunk off Weymouth in May last year to form a sanctuary for lobsters.

Up to 1,000 of the crustaceans, donated by the National Lobster Hatchery based in Cornwall, will be released between June and August.

The project, run by community group Wreck to Reef, aims to boost lobster stocks to help the fishing industry.

Diving reef

The circular lobster reef, which will cost about £25,000 a year to maintain, is set to have 6,000 lobsters introduced annually from next year.

Wreck to Reef has approached Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) to fund the project, near Ringstead Bay, for three years from 2014.

Rocks have been used for the artificial reef as lobsters like to live in stony crevices.

The group also has long-term plans to sink two warships near Ringstead Bay as an artificial diving reef, similar to the one off Whitsand Bay in Plymouth where HMS Scylla was sunk in 2004.

"We're currently in the process of approaching the MoD and the Treasury for a ship," said project co-ordinator Neville Copperthwaite.

"It is estimated that sinking a single ship brings in £1.6m to the local economy," he added.

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