Fears for Prawn Fishery – Fishupdate.com

Fears for Prawn Fishery Published:  09 September, 2008

West coast fishermen are alarmed at the prospect of a 25% cut in total allowable catch for 2009, suggested by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas.

ICES has also proposed a 10% cut in the TAC for the North Sea, which could displace some of the North Sea fleet and put further pressure on the west coast fishing grounds. The Mallaig and North-West Fishermen’s Association are also disappointed that the use of TV camera surveys of the abundance of prawns on the seabed has been questioned. Previous surveys have shown rising stock numbers in general, but the advice from ICES for the coming year will be based on the landings in the previous two years, which have undershot the existing TACs.

The North Sea nephrops TAC is currently 26,144 tonnes, with the UK having a share of 22,644 tonnes. In 2006, 16,899 tonnes were landed. Nephrops are the UK most valuable species and the North Sea landings into Scotland in 2005 were worth £38.7m. The west coast nephrops TAC is currently 19,885 tonnes, with the UK share set at 19,415 tonnes. In 2006, 12,504 tonnes were landed.

John Hermse, secretary of the MNWA, said that the new approach by ICES could cause problems in 2009 and into the future. “This system means that we could be locked into ever-decreasing quotas. The TV surveys aren’t trusted by ICES and the scientists want longer data sets. But setting the limits according to what was caught in the past two years looks like just another way of trying to cut down the size of the fishing fleet,” he said.

TV surveys show densities at average or high levels in all areas apart from the Farne Deeps, which show a steady decline. Declines have also been noted in the North and South Minches and the Clyde, although landings have remained high, although the full TACs aren’t being caught. ICES scientists argue that the full TAC isn’t being caught, because stocks are dwindling.

John Hermse said: “The reason the TAC isn’t being caught is that with all the other restrictions on days at sea and the vagaries of the weather, the fleet isn’t able to go out often enough to reach the TAC catch limit. ICES has now decided to apply the precautionary principle, but they haven’t indicated how they’ll collect the information to change their stance when it is clear to fishermen that the stocks are plentiful.”

He added: “There is also talk among Government officials of introducing a prawn permit which will apply to trawlers and creel boats. They say that there is now so much effort aimed at catching prawns that they need to introduce a permit to limit effort. There is no restriction now and there are many boats fishing for prawns. We must also ensure that fishing effort, denied the right to fish in other areas, doesn’t transfer into the prawn fishery.”

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