NEW MEASURES ANNOUNCED TO PROTECT CRAWFISH STOCKS IN THE SOUTHWEST
New measures announced to protect crawfish stocks in the southwest. Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is to increase the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) for crawfish (palinurus spp) in ICES area 7 from 95 mm to 110 mm from 1 January 2024.
The decision was taken after a co-design workshop with fishers and considering consultation responses from the draft crab and lobster fisheries management plan.
This decision aims to ensure short and long-term sustainability of the stock so that industry can continue to generate income from the valuable species in future.
On 3 October 2023 MMO brought fishers and government together to discuss short-term solutions after industry raised concerns about changes to the fishery that they feared threatened the sustainability of stocks.
Landings have increased sharply over the last five years while the fishing season has extended into winter and there has been a rise in the number of larger vessels with a bigger catching capacity targeting the species.
Richard Hoskin, Head of Sustainable Fisheries at MMO, said:
“The recent changes in the fishery, alongside its previous history of cycles of boom and bust, suggest that urgent intervention is required.
“We have worked closely with industry to understand their preferred solution and held a workshop to go through the benefits and disadvantages of two potential measures – an increase in MCRS and a seasonal closure.
“There was unanimous support for an increase in MCRS as a measure that would bring benefit to stock. There was also some support for a seasonal closure, with questions surrounding the timing of a potential closure.”
Full outcomes of the workshop are rationale behind the MCRS increase are available here.
Following the workshop, MMO worked at pace with other government departments to design and implement the MCRS increase and to open a consultation on a potential seasonal closure of the crawfish fishery.
The potential closure would seek to prohibit the retaining and landing of crawfish in English waters of ICES area 7 for all UK and EU vessels using all gear types.
MMO is proposing the following potential closure periods for consideration:
- No closure
- 1 December 2023 to 31 May 2024: This would provide the greatest protection to crawfish.
1 January 2024 to 31 May 2024: This would allow fishing for the Christmas market.
- 1 January 2024 to 31 March 2024: This would align with the French (Brittany) crawfish closure.
The consultation is open from 13 November to 27 November 2023.
Crawfish are included in the crab and lobster fisheries management plans currently being review by Defra and longer-term management measures from 2024 will be enacted through this mechanism.
For a full account of how and why these new measures was developed, visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/regional-fisheries-groups-south-west-7efg.