Three fishing sites in Isle of Man waters are to receive enhanced protection under new measures that look to prohibit bottom trawling.

Introduced by the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA), the measures cover the closed areas within the Western Irish Sea Mud-belt (WISMB).

The WISMB is a large expanse of muddy habitat off the island’s west coast, which provides a habitat for a wide range of marine species, including langoustines (prawns). A spokesperson from the Isle of Man Government said: ‘The expansive area has been extensively trawled for decades by UK fleets and the seabed was recently recognised as one of the most physically disturbed in the North-East Atlantic.

‘Despite this, marine scientists believe prawn numbers are sustainable, with an estimated 4.5 billion individuals on the grounds between the island and Northern Ireland. However, other species taken as ‘bycatch’ in bottom trawls are in a poor state.’

The new measures from DEFA look to protect a number of vulnerable species, habitats and carbon deposits, as well as giving the department the ability to create a new fishery using ‘low-impact methods’.

This comes after the UK recently allocated the Isle of Man a 100-tonne quota, which if utilised, could more than double by 2026.

Jack Emmerson, Sea Fisheries Manager at DEFA, said: ‘The new quota is a massive opportunity for the Manx seafood industry.

'The department is committed to ensuring that the new fishery is established with sustainability at its foundation, and we believe that these new measures strike a balance between sustainable local food production, environmental protection and the need for greater research into the role these marine habitats have in mitigating climate change.

‘This is a significant step forward for our fisheries and food policies. Prawns caught using creels are a low-carbon source of protein and have significantly less impact on the seabed compared to other methods.

‘I’m excited to see them in our local retail and restaurants, and to work with the local industry to make the fishery a success.’

Ahead of the measures coming into effect on April 8, local fisherman John Henley recently landed some of the first sustainably caught Nephrops into Peel, which were received by Jay Gore from Robinsons.

Mr Gore said: ‘The diversification of our fisheries in such a controlled and managed way can only spell the beginnings of something great for our seafood industry.

‘To be able to offer Manx Nephrops to our customers will be a pleasure. Thank you for the hard work Manx Fish Producers Organisation (MFPO), DEFA Fisheries, and local fishermen have put in to make this possible.’

The new measures will remain in place until December 2026, when research into blue carbon and seabed habitats is complete and a review of the trial fishery is expected to start.