Industry members implemented voluntary measures within the area to help ensure the sustainability of stock and asked UK FAs to implement management measures.
“The aim of the closure was to enable the FAs to make an informed review of the current king scallop fishery. Without more detailed analysis of the stock, we did not know if scallops in the area are locally recruiting individuals, whether there is significant larval import/export from the area or what sustainable fishing levels in the fishery are,” says the MMO.
Fourteen respondents, representing individual vessels and large fishing/ processing industry groups, responded to the call for evidence.
In summary there was a nine to five majority in favour of a temporary closure and of those nine all but one preferred a closure beyond three-weeks. The majority agreed that a temporary closure to survey the area and obtain data was both desirable and necessary. The minority opposed to closing the fishery cited the economic impacts as a reason for their opposition to the closure.
Having considered the responses to this call for evidence the UKFAs decided to proceed with the closure of the king scallop fishery in the following eight ICES rectangles: 39F1, 39F2, 39F3, 38F1, 38F2, 38F3, 37F1 and 37F2.
The closure was put in place for four weeks initially from 00.01h 12 July 2020 to 23.59h 8 August 2020. The duration of the closure is subject to review based on the progress and outcomes of gathering scientific information on the stock in the area. Following preliminary advice from Cefas, this closure was extended until 23.59h 29 August. Fishing vessel licences were varied by all UKFAs to reflect the temporary closure.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) funded the Cefas research vessel RV Cefas Endeavour to allow samples and scientific data to be gathered from the Dogger Bank area. Four days were allocated to survey the ICES rectangles in the closure area.
Sampling locations for the survey were selected using VMS and scallop by-catch data, ensuring coverage of the main dredged locations as well as those areas where trawlers indicated catches.
The survey aimed to establish the spawning condition of scallops at each location to make a rapid report based on the initial closure. The survey also aimed to collect data to help establish the size and age structure of the patches to better understand their sustainability, although the time required for analysis of the shells will mean this element of reporting will be later in the year.
“The closure and any subsequent extensions will be kept under review by the four UKFAs,” writes the MMO who concluded by saying “The UKFAs would like to thank the industry for the work they have done to date. We are committed to working with the scallop industry throughout the closure, during the review and in any subsequent decisions or actions that result from the data gathering.”