Scotland: proposals to regulate nephrops fishery welcomed by fishermens groups Published: 19 April, 2006
NEW proposals to regulate the nephrops fishery have been welcomed by two west coast fishermens associations. The proposals have come about following the growth of vessels fishing for nephrops with trawls and static gear, and calls from the industry itself to prevent further increases in fishing effort to protect the viability of the fishery. The increase in vessels entering the industry, and the consequent increase in creels being used, was brought about by the development of a new market for live prawns 13 years ago. This doubled returns to static gear vessels compared to their previous whole fresh and frozen markets. Current licensing restrictions control the power of the boats engines, to try to prevent more powerful boats taking up the quota allocations more quickly, which would jeopardise the viability of most of the boats currently working in inshore fisheries. A significant move from a larger number of less powerful vessels to a smaller more powerful fleet would also have an impact on local communities and on-shore services.
The Government paper setting out the proposals highlights the fact that the current arrangements do not adequately restrict the number of 10 metre and under-10m vessels which can decide to fish for nephrops. Creel numbers are not restricted either and although the nephrops creel fishery began with each vessel having around 400 creels, numbers for each vessel are now up to 3,000. Some fishermen use half their gear, while leaving the other half protecting other grounds on which they fish. Creels have now been moved onto recognised trawling grounds because traditional static gear grounds are saturated with creels.
The paper proposes to introduce new rules from this August. These include a nephrops fishing permit, which will remain the property of the Government and which must be handed back once a vessel stops fishing for nephrops. Vessels without a permit will not be allowed to fish for nephrops. The number of permits will be based on the number of UK boats which have a track record of landing 12 kilograms or more of nephrops during any year between March 2003 and March 2006. Creel numbers will be limited according to vessel size, with 600 for under eight metre boats, 1,000 for eight to 10 metre boats, 1,200 for 10 to 12 metre boats and 1,500 for over 12 metre boats.
John Hermse, secretary of the Mallaig and North-west Fishermens Association, said: At long last weve got proposals for a limit on creel numbers and I am all in favour of a permit to cap effort in this sector. It is also very positive that permits will not be allowed to get a market value, as has happened with other quotas and licences. If the same had applied to licences and quotas, we would not be in the difficult situation that we are experiencing now in other sectors. This covers a lot of the loopholes left in other legislation.
It is not clear yet how the limit on creels will be enforced, but it is likely that a tagging system, similar to the Canadian system will be introduced. Tags will be recorded and applied to the creels. Any creels without tags will be lifted by the fishery protection service and destroyed.
Duncan MacInnes, secretary of the Western Isles Fishermens Association, said: These proposals will also make it easier for young fishermen to enter the industry. When anyone retires or leaves the industry, the permit reverts to the Government. New entrants can get these permits without paying a fortune for them. If everything goes well, these proposals will be implemented in August and that should ensure that the nephrops sector is sustainable into the future.