Cornwall IFCA has issued an update on the crustacean fishing call for evidence which includes crabs, crawfish and lobsters in its region. Photo: University of Plymouth
In a proactive move to address concerns surrounding the state of crustacean fisheries in the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (Cornwall IFCA) district, a comprehensive call for evidence was initiated in autumn 2021.
The focus of this inquiry was on the Crab and Lobster fisheries within the region, impacting the 270 Lobster, Crawfish & Crab Permit byelaw permit holders.
The questionnaire, distributed to the permit holders, aimed to gauge their perspectives on the current state of crustacean fisheries in the Cornwall IFCA district. The overwhelming consensus from respondents was that fishing effort was alarmingly high, prompting the need for urgent measures to ensure the long-term viability of inshore fishing for crustaceans. This, in turn, would safeguard the coastal communities heavily dependent on these predominantly single-handed, inshore commercial vessels.
Building on the insights garnered from the initial questionnaire, Cornwall IFCA extended the consultation to include other stakeholders, such as businesses and individuals directly involved in the crustacean fishery. The objective was to gather views on various management measures to address the concerns raised about the detrimental impacts of excessive fishing effort.
The informal consultation, which took place from May 17 to June 14, 2023, witnessed a commendable number of responses. While the majority of feedback came from active fishers, contributions were also received from fishing representatives, processors, wholesalers, and restaurateurs.
Two key fishing effort management measures emerged as paramount for the future of the inshore fishery, according to respondents. Firstly, a majority of 74% favoured a reduction in the maximum vessel size permitted to fish for crabs and lobsters in the Cornwall IFCA district, aiming to eliminate what they deemed unsustainable fishing practices in the inshore zone. Secondly, 69% of respondents advocated for a limit on the number of pots used in the fishery, suggesting a maximum number per vessel to fish for crabs and lobsters.
Concerns were raised about the impact of large vessels capable of extended periods at sea and operating in adverse weather conditions. Traditional, small-scale fishing operators reported being adversely affected, with some forced to abandon fishing altogether.
The consultation also explored additional fishing effort control mechanisms, including closed periods and days at sea limits.
Following the discussion of the report at the Cornwall IFCA Authority meeting on December 15, officers will commence the process of developing the proposed measures. These measures, driven by stakeholder input, aim to ensure the sustainability and long-term future of inshore crab and lobster fishing, benefiting the numerous coastal communities reliant on these vital stocks.