isle man fishing grounds

Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) has announced measures to prohibit bottom trawling in three Isle of Man fishing grounds

In a move aimed at bolstering environmental conservation and sustainable fishing practices, the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) of the Isle of Man has announced new measures to enhance the protection of three crucial fishing sites within its waters.

These measures involve prohibiting bottom trawling in designated closed areas.

The newly protected areas lie within the Western Irish Sea Mud-belt (WISMB), a vast muddy habitat off the west coast of the island. This region serves as a vital habitat for a diverse array of marine species, including langoustines (prawns). Despite decades of extensive trawling by UK fleets, recent assessments by marine scientists suggest that prawn populations remain sustainable, with an estimated 4.5 billion individuals inhabiting the grounds between the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland. However, concerns persist regarding the poor state of other species caught as bycatch in bottom trawls.

DEFA’s proactive measures aim to safeguard numerous vulnerable species, internationally significant habitats, and rich carbon deposits, aligning with the Isle of Man’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Furthermore, these initiatives will facilitate the development of a new, sustainable fishery utilizing low-impact methods tailored for the lucrative langoustine market. The UK recently allocated the Isle of Man a 100-tonne quota, which, if fully utilized, could more than double by 2026.

Jack Emmerson, Sea Fisheries Manager at DEFA, emphasized the significance of this opportunity for the Manx seafood industry, emphasising sustainability as a cornerstone of the new fishery. He highlighted the environmental benefits of using creels to catch prawns, citing their minimal impact on the seabed and virtually non-existent bycatch. He 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, and virtually no bycatch. 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.”

The decision to implement these measures was informed by feedback gathered through a targeted stakeholder consultation, which engaged various stakeholders including the fishing community, non-governmental organizations, and regulators across the British Isles.

As the measures are set to come into effect on 08 April, local skipper John Henley has already made some of the initial landings of high-quality and sustainably caught Nephrops into Peel. These efforts have been warmly received by Jay Gore of Robinsons, who expressed optimism about the positive impact of diversifying fisheries in a controlled and managed manner. 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.”

David Beard of the Manx Fish Producers Organization (MFPO), responsible for managing the quota, hailed the new measures as putting the Isle of Man at the forefront of sustainable fisheries management, saying:

“The first landings from the newly established creel caught fishery mean the Isle of Man is once again at the forefront of sustainable fisheries management.”

The newly implemented measures will remain in place until December 2026, pending the completion of research on blue carbon and seabed habitats, alongside a review of the trial fishery. This concerted effort underscores the Isle of Man’s commitment to responsible environmental stewardship and sustainable fisheries management.

 

Source: Press Release

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