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Commercial Fishing


Additional protection for Isle of Man fishing grounds

Additional protection for Isle of Man fishing grounds

Three important fishing sites in Isle of Man owned waters are to receive enhanced protection under new measures announced by the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) to prohibit bottom trawling.

The new closed areas sit within the Western Irish Sea Mud-belt (WISMB), which is a large expanse of muddy habitat off the island’s west coast that provides vital habitat for a wide range of marine species, including langoustines (prawns).

The expansive area has been extensively trawled for decades by UK fleets and the seabed was recently recognised by OSPAR 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, but other species taken as ‘bycatch’ in bottom trawls are in a poor state.

DEFA’s decisive action will protect numerous vulnerable species, internationally important habitats and rich carbon deposits, as the Isle of Man aims to be net zero by 2050. It will also allow DEFA to develop a new and sustainable fishery using low-impact methods for the lucrative langoustine market 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, 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 was informed by feedback from a targeted stakeholder consultation earlier this year that sought views from the fishing community, non-governmental organisations and regulators across the British Isles.

Ahead of the measures coming into effect on 8 April, local skipper John Henley landed some of the first high quality and sustainably caught Nephrops into Peel this week, which were gratefully received by Jay Gore of 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.’

David Beard of the MFPO, who manages the quota, said: ‘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 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.