A Marine Institute proposal for a Management Plan for Crayfish in the south-west of Ireland which could distress inshore fisheries there

A Marine Institute proposal for a Management Plan for Crayfish in the south-west of Ireland which could distress inshore fisheries

The Marine Institute has put forward a proposal Management Plan for Crayfish in the southwest of Ireland.

The proposed plan is in the area inside the 12nm limit from Loop Head in Co Clare to Mizen Head in Co Cork and could start in 2021.

The Marine Institute released a document which is a prior notification of intent to tender for work relevant to development of the management plan.

The proposed management plan represents this very significant change in how the fishery would operate in the future. This includes

  • closure of the fishery entirely for three years, from 2021 to 2023
  • prohibiting the use of large mesh nets in the area permanently
  • reopening the fishery as a trap fishery in 2024

The closure of the fisheries will exclude the whole coastline of Kerry from cray fishing. It will also prohibit the use of large mesh gillnets/tangle nets for fishing turbot and monkfish.

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Writing to fishermen in the area, Oliver Tully from the Marine Institute Fisheries Ecosystem Advisory Services (FEAS) explained:

“In order to evaluate the potential of the above changes to deliver a sustainable and viable fishery post 2023 and to resolve issues relating to interaction between wildlife (seals, porpoise, rare and endangered species of Skates and Rays including Angle Shark) and fisheries in the area the Marine Institute is proposing to publish a request for tender early in 2021 to procure and fund the work necessary for development of the Management Plan. Successful bidders to the request for tender would be contracted under a Framework Agreement to carry out works for and with the Marine Institute for a period of 4-5 years.

The request for tender could incorporate observations received on the attached Information Notice.”

The information notice lays out the Prior Information Notice (PIN) documentation which proposes that a funded body of work is procured to support the development of a proposed Management Plan for crayfish inside the 12nm between Mizen Head and Loop Head off the south west coast of Ireland.

The PIN is a precursor to a tendering process, the Marine Institute may incorporate any observations received into its upcoming Request for Tenders.

Following consultation on this PIN, the MI intends to publish a Request for Tenders to establish a framework agreement to support a development plan.

The reason behind the management plan is due to the poor state of crayfish stocks. Research carried out between 2017 and 2020, and previously in 2007 and from a review of the fishery in 2011, showed evidence that there was a need for a management plan to be developed.

The document says that there is significant potential to increase economic value and employment in the fishery and to minimise or remove unsustainable interactions with wildlife by moving to a pot-based fishery and removing gillnet/tangle net fishing from the seas around this area.

The document claims that current fishing methods also causes mortality of crayfish which are then discarded. Crayfish are the highest unit value species of fish captured in Ireland. Prices usually vary from €30-35 per kg. The document goes on to say that significant economic value would be realised through stock restoration. There is currently significant investment in technology for aquaculture of related species in different parts of the world which highlights the market demand and value of crayfish and related species.

The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 aims to eliminate (fishery) by-catch of species threatened with extinction and to introduce fishery management measures to enable recovery. The Management Plan would contribute to Ireland’s National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021 and the implementation of Birds and Habitats Directives.

Crayfish is a component species of reef habitat and is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The Marine Institute says the Management Plan would be developed in consultation with the industry during the period 2001-2023. This would include especially the vessel owners in the Framework Agreement but would also be inclusive of the Inshore Fisheries Forums. The process would incorporate findings from the scientific programme of work that would be developed under the Framework Agreement.

DAFM would run a parallel public consultation process on the main measures proposed and following this would, where necessary, develop legislation for the new measures. d. It is intended that the proposed Management Plan would begin during quarter 2 of 2021.

The following measures would be proposed:

  1. The use of tangle nets (nets with mesh > 5 inches) in the Project Area would be prohibited permanently from 2021 inclusive. This measure is seen as critical to future sustainable and viable fishing for crayfish.
  2. Landing of crayfish by any and all fishing vessels within the Project Area would be prohibited in years 2021-2023 inclusive.
  3. The fishery would re-open in 2024 as a pot fishery only. This is a reversion to how the fishery operated prior to the mid-1970s. Potting for crayfish is not currently viable as a target fishery because the stock status is much lower than it was in the 1970s.
  4. To improve the viability of a pot fishery in 2024 the minimum landing size could be reduced to 100mm or down to the EU minimum reference size of 95mm. This would be conditional on other controls being developed in a Management Plan.
  5. During the fishery closure in 2021-2023 consideration would be given to how access to the fishery would be properly managed from 2024.

Any decision on the implementation of fisheries management measures to support the proposed Management Plan will be a matter for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Who would be affected by the proposed fishery management measures?

a/. Fishers in the Project Area that would be significantly affected by the proposal are mainly those who use large mesh set nets (entangling nets) to target mainly crayfish but also in fewer cases turbot or monkfish. These vessels have a by-catch of lobster and crab.

b/. This group use, to a varying extent ‘large mesh set nets’. They may also fish with small mesh gill nets and pots. Any individual fishing vessel may thereby operate a number of different gear types. The proposed Management Plan is not proposing any changes to gill net fishing (less than 5 inch mesh) or to any fishing gears other than large mesh set nets.

c/. The objectives of the proposed Management Plan include recovery of the economic viability of fishing for crayfish. However, future fishing pressure on crayfish will also need to be managed and vessels operating in the fishery will, therefore, also need to fish other species as they currently do. Resolving interactions between wildlife and fisheries that these and other vessels participate in is, therefore, critical to the success of any future fishery 5 Management Plan for crayfish. This will benefit fishers in the gill net fisheries for Pollack and Hake for instance.

The full document can be viewed here.

Brian J McMullin Solicitors
MMG Welding Killybegs

Crayfish Management Proposal to protect stocks in the south-west

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