Landmark fishing agreement reached

LOBSTER CHANGES: Pictured left to right, Ian Quine, Christian Clugston, Johnny Williams, Guy Sutton and Phil Gawne MHK

LOBSTER CHANGES: Pictured left to right, Ian Quine, Christian Clugston, Johnny Williams, Guy Sutton and Phil Gawne MHK

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A GROUND breaking agreement has been reached protecting Port St Mary’s Bay Ny Carrickey from excessive pot fishing, making it one of just two such protected areas in the British Isles.

The area is within one already protected from scallop dredging (introduced last summer) and is a by-product of that ban.

The ban on scallop dredgers attracted more pot fishermen to the area.

The same has happened in Lyme Bay, Devon, which was protected from scallop dredging in 2008, resulting in over pot fishing. Last July, fishermen and conservationists there agreed to limit the number of pots in the Lyme Bay area.

Following suit, concerned pot fishermen in Port St Mary formed Bay Ny Carrickey Crustacean Fishery Management Association a few months ago and approached the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) about imposing pot fishing limits in the area.

‘The amount of pot fishing taking place was not sustainable,’ said pot fisherman and association member Christian Clugston,

He said of the agreement, that came into force last Wednesday, ‘I am over the moon.’ He added: ‘At a time when many fishermen are worried that increases in fishing effort are putting their livelihoods at risk, we are very pleased that we are now in a position to control effort in our fishery, and ensure that it is sustainably run. We have a responsibility to ensure that we do not overfish the bay, and I am confident that the scientific monitoring that we will be undertaking ourselves, and input from independent fisheries scientists, means that we will soon be able to confirm that we are managing our fishery sustainably.’

In the agreement – which is a pilot scheme – responsibility for conservation and management of stocks in a 11 square kilometres of Bay Ny Carrickey has been handed over to local fishermen who can introduce conservation measures, such as a ban on new entrants (strictly controlled initially until scientific findings suggests otherwise) and a cap on overall fishing effort.

Seven boats (that have fished the area for at least two years) are permitted to pot fish in the protected area. Six of the boats have a limit of 100 pots and the seventh has 50 pots meaning a maximum of 650 pots will be used in the bay. The pots include five for research supplied by the DEFA that have no escape panels. Details about the size of juvenile lobsters (which are territorial, meaning they indicate the affect of the ban on the immediate area) caught in these pots will be recorded by fishermen and relayed each month to Bangor University (the scientific advisor to DEFA).

The minimum landing size (MLS) of lobsters will increase by 1mm carapace length each year, from 87mm to 90mm.

The brown crab MLS will increase – with immediate effect – from 130mm to 135mm.

‘The extra monitoring of juvenile lobsters which the fishermen have agreed to undertake, could, in time, be an invaluable data set that helps us understand the fishery better,’ said DEFA minister Phil Gawne MHK.

Mr Gawne explained why there was no consultation before the ban was introduced. ‘We wanted to see how it worked. We are going to consult over the summer, looking at this area, and there is potential for other areas to be introduced.’

Some pot fishermen excluded from fishing in the area have expressed concern to Mr Gawne, who said: ‘I can understand there are concerns, but we are not just doing this and ignoring them … had we done that [consultation before imposing the ban], the very real possibility is lobster and crab fishermen would have been fished out the bay.’

He said this pilot scheme is open to review. ‘If there are overwhelming arguments against it, we will change. It is in place until October, which is the same as the scallop closure. I would hope we will extend that and have a more lengthy period in the agreement with crab and lobster fishermen.’

The agreement indicates the island is at the forefront of creating a sustainable fishery, he said. ‘This is another example of our fishing industry developing into a mature custodian of the marine environment, rather than taking the short term view. We will be carefully monitoring the success of this venture, which I hope in due course becomes a template for other Manx fishermen to take on responsibility for their own fisheries.’

He added: ‘It is visionary.’

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