Dunbar Sea Fish Hatchery

The expansion of the fishing industry in the North Sea during the 19th century was driven by both improvements in technology and by ever more boats. By the end of the century the Fishery Board for Scotland began a research programme to replenish food fish stocks in the North Sea.

Plan of the Dunbar Sea Fish Hatchery

Plan of the Dunbar Sea Fish Hatchery

The need to replenish the fishing grounds with white fish supplies and the suitability of the waters around Dunbar led to the building of a fish hatchery at Victoria Harbour in the 1890s. The director was Harald C Dannevig, a Norwegian expert. The hatchery complex comprised a suite of buildings erected on the edge of Castle Park; elements of the facility were grafted onto the castle rock and the hidden cavern under the castle was brought into use as a reservoir, or holding tank, for the constant stream of seawater that the covered hatching ponds needed. Experiments concentrated on species of flat fish: turbot, sole, plaice and lemon sole. The hatchery produced over 152 million fry, mostly plaice, in just over six years. However, the Board’s plans changed and the whole of the hatchery was transferred to Aberdeen in 1898, leaving only a few concrete walls, a water tank and the hidden reservoir.

Victoria Harbour, hatchery top left

Victoria Harbour, hatchery top left

The short period the hatchery was standing is a useful marker in dating late Victorian photographs of Victoria Harbour!

The transfer to Aberdeen was successful: the Aberdeen Marine Laboratory still operates as an agency of the Scottish Government. From time to time other initiatives have attempted to increase the marine catch: North Berwick’s lobsters are just the latest!

For more about Dunbar and the sea, click here.




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