HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) – They were offered custom-made homes made of 1,100 pounds of concrete, but lobsters in Halifax harbor seem happier simply living in piles of rocks.

That’s what a group of Halifax-based researchers are finding out as they look for ways to create artificial habitat for lobsters.

The project began in 2004, prompted by the need to compensate for infilling, dredging, the installation of underwater cables or pipelines, and wharf construction in coastal waters.

The researchers began trying to lure the shellfish into specially designed concrete balls filled with holes in 30-foot waters off McNabs Island in the harbor. But the lobsters didn’t seem interested.

“Never did we have more than five lobsters out there,” said lead researcher Glyn Sharp.

“And it’s not that there aren’t lobsters around McNabs. There are. There’s a lobster fishing industry right here on the doorstep.”

Artificial reefs made of everything from concrete and ships to cars and tires have been tried worldwide with varying degrees of success.

The researchers did, however, have better luck with random piles of different sized rocks.

The piles were placed around McNabs Island and attracted lobsters within a couple of months – more lobsters than had ever been found in the concrete balls.

Researchers then set their sites on Sambro harbor to see what would happen if they put the rock piles where young lobsters weren’t likely to be found.

Before long, lobsters had moved in.

“We don’t just want to move animals around,” said Sharp. “We want to create new production.”

Sharp cautioned that it’s still too early to reach any definite conclusions, 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,” said Sharp.

“They’ll see some direct benefit and years of information will come out of the project.”